PHOENIX - The Mingus boys soccer team lost 2-1 to Gilbert Christian Tuesday night at Northwest Christian High School in the first round of the Divison III playoffs. The game was tied 1-1 for most of the night, but in the final minute a Gilbert Christian player (No. 24) appeared to hand the ball into the Mingus goal.
The center referee paused and consulted with the assistant referee after the questionable score. Everyone on the Mingus bench assumed the center ref was discussing whether the Gilbert Christian player should receive a red card for the egregious infraction, but they were stunned when the center ref called the goal good.
Initial disbelief followed by pleading with the ref did nothing for the Marauders. With 40 seconds left they needed to score to force overtime, but they had trouble putting the ball in the net all night. Mingus out shot the Gilbert Christian Knights 22-6, but that didn't translate to the scoreboard.
Austin Strobel did not start the game for Mingus. He rolled his ankle trying to do a back flip a week prior in a non-soccer related competition, so his ability to run diminished by roughly 50 percent. Miguel Gonzalez got the start at center midfield.
Gilbert Christian drew first blood with a gift of a goal. It bounced in front of Marauder keeper Gilbert Quidera and over his head. He got a hand on it, but the ref determined the ball crossed the line. Quidera was upset, and coach Cade Densmore subbed him out in favor of Johnny Lara.
Quidera knew he had the ability to stop the ball, but he just misjudged it. The ball bounced high because the grass on the field at Northwest Christian is bermuda and it dies in the winter. The hard surface gave the ball extra bounce. Most of the natural-grass fields in the Phoenix area are the same.
Strobel couldn't sit on the bench and watch his team down a score. Densmore put Strobel in the game knowing his physical limitations, but trusting Strobel's experience and soccer IQ.
Mingus equalized the contest later in the first half with a great passing play that started with a cross from Talon Walz to Braeden Wills, who dished to Williams Dominguez, who drew a defender and nonchalantly passed to Jose "Smiley" Jaimes, who put the ball in the net from short distance.
Mingus had plenty of opportunities, but they only converted that one. The Marauders dominated ball possession and put shots on frame for the entire game, but Gilbert Christian played hard and their keeper did well to block some of Cristian Escobar's powerful shots.
Williams Dominguez created opportunities for himself by beating Knights defenders one on one, then cutting to the goal, but he couldn't convert. Plenty of other Marauders put the ball on frame, but they just weren't going in.
Already frustrated by an inability to score, the hand-ball goal in the final minute sent some of the Mingus players over an emotional edge. They openly wept after the game, feeling upset with their own play and cheated by the referee.
Mingus was supposed to compete for a title, but injuries and bad calls ended their run.
Senior sweeper Jonathan Witt sustained a season-ending knee injury before it even started. Andrew Hickey played great at the position, but losing Witt was a big blow.
Despite losing a senior captain, the Marauders still had the firepower to compete for a title. Williams Dominguez is a special player; Cristian Escobar emerged as a powerful scorer; Strobel is a talisman; Alex Contreras plays with passion and wins almost everything in the air; Alan Castillo and Matt Kline are solid defenders; Hickey has what it takes to play sweeper.
Underclassmen stepped up to contribute too, including Freshmen Rueben Contreras and Elias Pondeca, but both those players were unavailable for the first-round game Tuesday.
With Strobel's limited ability, Escobar dropped back for a good portion of the game to help in the middle. Escobar played great, but ideally you want him in his natural striking position for as much of the game as possible. The Mingus coaching staff worked with what they had.
Even with all the injuries, even with the hand-ball goal, Mingus should have won the game. They were the better team, but if the best team always won, sports would be no fun. This time Mingus lost to a lesser team, and it doesn't help the knots in their stomachs to know a bad-call ended their season.
Video evidence shows it, but it doesn't matter. There is nothing that can be done to change the outcome of the game. If you want to watch the video, here it is You Tube video
Nearly everyone in the stadium knew it was a hand ball, except the guys in stripes (or in this case green shirts). Densmore said he talked with Gilbert Christian coaches after the game and they said it should have gone to overtime.