The Coconino Panthers' struggles on offense continued Thursday in a home loss to the Bradshaw Mountain Bears, who stacked the box often and throughout and used a late goal to win their Grand Canyon Region opener.
Entering the day separated by just a few spots in the AIA's initial 4A Conference power rankings, the 29th-ranked Panthers -- who have now been outscored 18-5, inflated by a season-opening 8-0 loss to No. 1 Tempe -- let a 2-1 lead slip away and missed a chance to move to .500. The No. 24 Bears wasted little time tying the game at 2-all after Jordan Soto Lugo put the Panthers ahead on a rebound shot to start the second-half scoring.
Keeping Coconino off the board for the final 25 minutes of the match after hitting the equalizer on a throw-in play inside the penalty box, Bradshaw made sure to avoid a tie with an attack up the middle that ended up a goal with just 3:18 remaining.
"The goals scored against us were just from sloppy clearing of the ball and ended up as easy shots," said Panthers head coach Kalani Kuamoo.
Coming off a 2-1 win over No. 37 Cactus dating back to Dec. 15, Coconino fell to 2-4 overall and 0-2 in the region standings. It was just the second time this season the Panthers put a crooked number on the board, matching their last game's season high of two goals.
Bradshaw, now 4-2 overall, put the decider on the board when Brandon Fischer beat his man while driving up the middle and fired over the advancing goalkeeper to take its second and final lead of the game. The Bears struck first in the opening half 10 and a half minutes in when an attack found its way through the clutter inside. The game's second tie came when the Bears again scored in the thick of it.
With a Bradshaw defender battling him on the dribble, Coconino senior Hipolito Molina drilled a shot from about 12 yards out that went left as the goalie dove right, making it a 1-1 contest in the 26th minute. Despite both teams applying heavy offensive pressure in the final 15 minutes of the opening half, the game went to halftime on the 1-1 tie.
Molina passed up a similar shot around the 12-minute mark, sending the ball back out behind him, and about a minute later teammate Angel-Alejandro Rosales had his shot bounce off the post. The shot, however, would not have counted, as the official blew the whistle for a high-kick call.
"We were hoping to finish the game. A lot of teams are out of shape because of the break. I was proud of the boys, they played with heart, but the result didn't turn out the way they wanted it," Kuamoo said.
Jair Limones broke up a one-on-one play midway through the first half for Coconino, keeping Bradshaw from gaining momentum and an opportunity to make it 2-0. Just five minutes after Bradshaw made their way onto the board, Coconino came up with another big stop as Bradshaw continued to pound in the goal area.
Soto Lugo connected off a rebound with 34:35 on the second-half clock on an attempt from a teammate that came off of the Bradshaw goalie's hands. The Panthers fended off a penalty kick in the 50th minute, but the Bears made up for the missed opportunity with the 2-2 goal a couple minutes later.
Bradshaw's goalie made a diving one-handed stop on Jesus Carrasco at the end of the eighth minute, redirecting a shot headed toward the top-right corner.
Coconino continues region play when they travel to Kingman to take on the Lee Williams Volunteers on Tuesday.