The Coconino Panthers boys soccer team struggled to finish opportunities at the goal and fell short against the Shadow Mountain Matadors on Wednesday, 2-0, at Coconino High School.
The Panthers were unable to catch a break after playing consecutive games at home on Tuesday and Wednesday, but that didn’t stop them from leaving it all on the field.
“Coming off back-to-back games makes it tough with not being able to practice. We had a lot of injuries from yesterday’s game, so it kind of came to this,” Panthers head coach Kalani Kuamoo said. “I think we were evenly matched, we just had some unlucky goals against us.”
The Panthers were off to a strong start, with a goal-scoring opportunity in the first two minutes of the game between the two 4A Conference clubs. Junior Eric Samaniego attempted to head the ball into the goal from a cross, but it ricocheted off the crossbar.
Junior goalkeeper Jose Samano could be heard from the sidelines encouraging his teammates to “wake up” as the 34th-ranked Matadors (2-3) continued to pressure the No. 37 Panthers (1-4-1) defense throughout the first half.
With just under 12 minutes left in the first half, the Matadors scored from 20 yards out. The ball arched over Samano’s gloves and into the top-left corner of the net.
After the goal, the intensity of the game rose and the Panthers parents and supporters shouted from the stands to step it up. Coconino had the chance to tie the game in the final moments of the first half with a counter attack, but Jesus Carrasco went one-on-one with the Matadors keeper and barely missed by grazing the crossbar.
At halftime the score was 1-0, and the Panthers would not be able to avoid a second straight shutout loss by the end of the match.
The Matadors had an opportunity to score in the first five minutes of the second half, followed by two corner kicks, but were unsuccessful in their attempts to double their lead early in the half.
Both teams continued to play with the same intensity from the start of the game and the ball juggled from one goal to the other, but with 15 minutes left in the game the score remained 1-0.
A handball was called against the Panthers 25 yards from the goal and the Matadors had another chance to score off a set piece. Samano fumbled the ball, but gained control and saved it.
“It’s his first year playing as a goalkeeper and he stepped up. He also leads the team in goals scored,” Kuamoo said about Samano.
With just 10 minutes left in the game, the Panthers had an opportunity in front of the goal with a corner kick but couldn't capitalize.
Panthers senior Jordan Soto was subbed out because of an injury and shortly after, the Matadors scored a goal off a counter attack with nine minutes left.
“I think we did good crossing the ball today, but we weren’t talking and it seemed like we were just shooting the ball without looking,” Samano said. “It’s heartbreaking, but we just need to keep our heads up. It’s a team effort, so we need to encourage each other.”
Coconino will play the third installment of a four-match homestand on Friday against Bradshaw Mountain, with the match set to start at 3 p.m.