TEMPE — Despite playing defense all night, the ball bounced Catalina Foothills’ way just enough to put the seventh-seeded Falcons into the state semifinals.
Foothills held off No. 2 Tempe 2-1 on Tuesday night in the 4A state boys quarterfinals. The Falcons (13-7) face No. 6 Prescott at 1 p.m. Saturday in the semifinals at Gilbert Williams Field. No. 1 Salpointe plays No. 4 Flagstaff in the first semifinal at 11 a.m. Saturday.
“Sometimes it’s all about how the bounces go,” said Foothills coach Greg Whitney. “They are obviously a great team. They definitely had more possession. Probably a little more technical than we were. But the boys played smart, held their own, and when we had chances to counter, they countered pretty well. We’ll take it.”
Foothills had to play tight defense much of the night against a team that scored 75 goals in 20 games, holding Tempe to a throw-away goal by Jeo Villalobos in the dying seconds.
“We’ve been screaming all year long that we need to put away a couple of chances because we know our guys are scrappy in the back and they sort of get things done however they can,” the Falcons’ leading scorer Ryan Whitney said.
They did. Junior defender Diego Carrasco and senior Dylan Montoya anchored a backline that was tested all night and goalkeeper Adrian McCune turned away several long shots and only needed to make a couple of saves to preserve the victory.
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Junior midfielder Zack Krautz put the Falcons on the board in the 22nd minute when Jaden Boling lifted the ball into the box from long range and Krautz volleyed it over Tempe goalkeeper Manny Cervantes’ head.
“It was more of an instinct,” Krautz said. “I didn’t know I was going to get the ball. My head was just there, I was in the air. I sort of tapped it in the air and waited there. It took a while for the ball to go in. It was a really good moment.”
In the 58th minute, Whitney had a free kick that Cervantes saved but the rebound in the 6-yard box was knocked in by Jack Johnson for the second score.
“For the whole season we’ve been seen as an underdog, to get a result tonight against what we knew would be a good team, feels really good,” Ryan Whitney said.
The Falcons had to put a lot of emphasis on defense, having to face Tempe’s speedy Jonathan Rodriguez, who came into the game with 19 goals and eight assists from his left wing position.
“We made sure we were aware of him,” Greg Whitney said. “We wanted to force him inside, not let him get the ball outside. The boys did a great job at that.”
The defense overcame a late first-half injury to center back Jory Leaver to hold Rodriguez scoreless.
Foothills lost in the first round a year ago and in the quarterfinals in 2017.
The Falcons have won four state titles, but have not reached the final since 2011.