It was a moment that Newport’s Oscar Jimenez had been waiting for his entire life.
With regulation nearing an end in a 3-3 game, the two-time defending state champion Newport soccer team was needing a goal to advance past Gladstone in the play-in round of the 4A playoffs.
In the 79th minute, Jimenez got the ball near midfield and, as senior Tryston Wolf said, “went full-Mbappe’.” Like the 19-year-old up French football phenom, Kylian Mbappe’, Jimenez weaved his way through multiple defenders until he finally found himself in the clear with a shot on goal. And Jimenez did not miss.
“I’ve been waiting for that goal the whole season,” said the sophomore forward. “And I knew that it had to be tonight so we could advance in the playoffs.”
When the final whistle blew Jimenez found himself at the bottom of a dogpile of Newport players celebrating a 4-3 win. Newport has now won 10 straight postseason games dating back to 2016.
“I felt it for like two weeks now and the magic is back, you look at our games last season we score in the last two minutes against Phoenix, last minute against Seaside, luck was on our side. We could’ve lost that one, Gladstone out-hustled us, not for all 80 minutes, but for most of it their players played their guts out.”
Winning playoff games has become a norm for the Cubs in recent years but Friday’s win saw Newport do something it hadn’t done all season.
“That’s the first game that we’ve battled back all season and won, we’ve never won a game when we were down,” Richardson said. “I’m so proud of those guys for coming back and battling back. We’ve talked about overcoming adversity and never giving up and staying positive. And they never gave up.”
Newport would take an early lead over the Gladiators when junior forward Juan Lopez gathered a rebound off a missed shot and snuck it past the goalie in the 28th minute. But the lead wouldn’t last long, Gladstone would respond a couple minutes later with an equalizing goal, then take a 2-1 lead into halftime after converting on a corner kick in the 35th minute.
A second-half comeback was needed, in the locker room during halftime the plan was to come out and even the score within the first couple of minutes. But it was Gladstone that would score early in the second half to take a commanding 3-1 lead early in the second half.
“There are doubts,” said senior goalkeeper Luis Reyes. “But the game is still going and we did a good job and kept playing.”
Even though Newport was facing a two-goal deficit, there was still a sense that they would make a comeback.
“You don’t quit,” said assistant coach Ricardo Desousacosta. “When you watch ‘Rocky’ and he’s getting his face pummeled, the fact is he is still in the fight, even though we were getting pummeled, we were still in the fight.”
It wouldn’t take long for the Cubs to equal the score. Jose Gonzalez and Kevin Teodoro brought the Cubs all the way back each with a second-half goal. The Champs weren’t going down without a fight.
“I think what helped out most was being a senior I wasn’t ready to have that be my last game,” Reyes said. “I feel like the other seniors weren’t ready for that to be our last game. Oscar definitely wasn’t ready for that to be our last game. We needed a leader, and today, Oscar stepped up.”
Editor’s note: Newport faces No. 2 Ontario in the round of 16 on Tuesday, Oct. 30. The game ended after pages were sent to press.