There were less than two minutes left in Juan Carlos Torres’ soccer career at Santa Barbara High and he was in pain.
There was pain from a sore hamstring, from a 2-1 deficit against a talented Harvard Westlake team, and a lingering pain from last year’s first-round home defeat in the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs.
But Torres found the best way to erase the pain was to do what he does best — score goals. He scored a tying goal in the 79th minute and delivered the game winner three minutes into overtime to give the Dons a stunning 3-2 victory on Wednesday at Warkentin Stadium.
Santa Barbara (20-1-4) advances to a second-round game at Mater Dei on Friday.
Covered by two players for most of the game, Torres finally found some open space after the Dons pushed players forward in an effort to score the equalizer.
He received a crossing ball from Luisangel Jeronimo and cracked a right-footed shot past Harvard Westlake goalkeeper Hudson Blatteis to knot the score at 2-2 and send the game into overtime\.
“A beautiful, bending shot,” described Santa Barbara coach Todd Heil. “He hits that in practice all of the time, so I don’t want anyone to think that was out of character for him.”
In the OT, Torres flicked a throw-in from Beto Vargas for the game winner.
“It was just momentum going our way since we scored in the last minute, and I was just going in to get it, no holding back,” said Torres of the scoring the game winner. “I wanted to rise up for these guys, they’re family right here, so I did it for them.”
Torres was elated he could play another day with his teammates.
“Just happiness, joy that we have a few more days together because it’s my last year,” he said of his emotions. “I’m doing it for them, me and all the seniors out there.”
Torres dug deep to keep Santa Barbara’s season going. In the 68th minute, it looked like he was finished when he pulled up, grabbed his hamstring and went down on the track.
“We left it up to him on what he could do to the extent of not hurting the team,” Heil said of the decision to have Torres continue playing. “It’s a good thing we didn’t take him out, by the way.”
Said Torres: “I was injured, but it’s my last year and I wasn’t going to give up like that. I came all this way just for my hamstring to be troubled toward the end of my senior season. I wasn’t going to let it happen.”
Torres admitted he had flashbacks of last year’s playoff loss against Palos Verdes in the first round at Warkentin Stadium.
“I didn’t like the feeling and I wasn’t going to have it,” he said.
Heil said playing a game against a quality opponent like Harvard Westlake was all about survival.
The Wolverines were blessed with several stellar ball handlers, led by UCLA commit Pablo Greenlee.
“That kid never stops. His metrics have got to be off the chart,” said Heil. “I saw that kid dribble the ball 60 yards and never slow down. It’s incredible. I’m not sure we had somebody who could stay with him. It was something where we kind of hoped we could collapse around him and behind him and, once he played the ball off, the shot wouldn’t be there.”
Greenlee was involved in both Harvard Westlake goals. He broke through on the left side of the Santa Barbara penalty area and shot past an onrushing goalkeeper Conner Lambe to tie the score at 1-1 in the 20th minute.
Santa Barbara scored in the ninth minute on a goal by Jorge Ochoa off a Cason Goodman assist.
The Wolverines took a 2-1 lead in the 54th when Greenlee blasted a ball off Lambe and Gabe Palacios scored on the rebound.
Lambe kept it a one-goal game as he came up with a huge kick save on Langston Holly in the 68th minute
“It was just pure instinct,” said the goalkeeper.
He got help from the woodwork in the 73rd minute as Greenlee shot off the post.
Santa Barbara center backs Erick Hernandez and Luke Goodman sacrificed their bodies to block shots in front of Lambe.
“I was happy how the back line played after we conceded the second goal,” said Lambe.
“I give the kids credit,” said Heil. “We never gave up, we kept pushing and kept pushing to try and get that tying goal.”
— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.