WALNUT - With a raucous crowd of supporters urging them to take advantage of one final opportunity on Sunday afternoon, the Mt. San Antonio College men's soccer team made sure a dramatic finish gave them what they wanted to see when Edward Castro delivered the game-winning goal in stoppage time as the Mounties beat a tough Hartnell College squad, 2-1, to claim the CCCAA Championship on their home field.
The Mounties, who finished their championship season with a 19-2-2 overall record, claimed their sixth state championship and their first since 2016. They've won all of their title since 2009. Hartnell, which was trying for it second state banner, ended its impressive season with a 20-2-3 overall mark. Anthony Rangel's 16th goal of the season tied the game for Hartnell in the 75th minute. Travis Piceno opened the scoring with a first-half score for Mt. San Antonio.
"I'm just so happy that all of the hard work that we've put in this season, the ups and downs, the journey at the end of the day was such a rewarding result to see that goal go in the last minute of the game," said head coach Juan Sanchez. "I'm very proud of these guys and very proud of this coaching staff and our school for hosting. There are just very overwhelming emotions for sure."
The game was marked by tenacious defense and solid opportunities on both sides. The Mounties and Panthers neutralized each other for the first 36 minutes before Piceno got Mt. San Antonio on the board, taking a slide pass to the left from Alex Mendez before putting in from 12 yards out. It was Piceno's third goal of the season.
Hartnell, which held a 10-0 advantage in corner kicks during the game, had five shots over the first nearly 30 minutes of the second half but they were either off the mark or blocked by the Mounties' defense. But the Panthers' persistence finally paid off in the 75th minute when Isaac Zuniga passed to Rangel during a quick counter on the right side, which Rangel converted into the game-tying goal.
Both sides stiffened from the point looking for one late opportunity and as the game moved into stoppage time, that chance finally came for Mt. San Antonio. Mendez came down the left side and crossed to the right as Castro came flying down the middle to head it in and set off a huge celebration along the Mounties' sideline.
"My hats go off to Hartnell and (head coach) Daniel (Ortega)," Sanchez said. "They had a good game plan. It could've gone either way. We had a better first half and they had a better second half and at the end we ended up getting the one that counted."
Hartnell led 11-7 in total shots with the teams combining for just five on goal. The Panthers had three of them.