It seemed to be only a matter of time before Trenton Campbell and Marco Avitia broke through for a goal Saturday afternoon at Flagstaff High School.
Just minutes after Alex Grieder evened No. 4 Flagstaff’s match against No. 13 Canyon Del Oro at one goal apiece, Campbell found Avitia open for the game-winning goal with 28 minutes left in the match. The quick flurry by Flagstaff, resulting in two goals and another shot off the left post, proved to be enough as the Eagles topped the Dorados 2-1 through a windy and chilly first round of the 4A Conference state soccer tournament.
“Since the beginning of the first half, I just felt like with the chances we were getting and the opportunities we had, it was bound to happen eventually,” Campbell said. “We got unlucky the first couple of minutes of the game. In the second half, we showed up.”
The Eagles found themselves trailing the Dorados 24 minutes into Saturday’s home playoff match, victimized by their own mistake on defense. A high bounce careened over Flagstaff goalkeeper Mark Cardenas as he jumped up to catch the ball, and the Eagles defense could not scramble to the goalline to clear it away in time.
While the goal ended up the only score for Canyon Del Oro in the match, with few other true chances against Cardenas coming to fruition, Flagstaff’s frustration mounted as shot after shot just missed the mark.
Earning seven corner kicks in the opening half, Flagstaff’s first flurry of offensive opportunities came with about seven minutes before halftime.
A shot on goal by Grieder ended up deflected away, but fell to the feet of Avitia on the left side of the box. The senior’s shot from close range bounced off the left goalpost, robbing the Eagles of tying the match. Grieder kept the pressure on three minutes later, taking control of the ball in the middle of the field near the 20-yard line.
Breaking hard to the right, Grieder attempted to cross the ball into the box only for it to be deflected away. With Flagstaff taking a corner less than a minute later, the pass landed in the middle of the crowd in front of the goal and the ensuing shot hitting the goal’s crossbar. Bouncing back down into play in front of the goalline, Canyon Del Oro cleared it away.
The onslaught of opportunities still continued on, with the Eagles setting up for their final corner kick of the half with under three minutes left, but Avitia’s shot was deflected.
“It was very stressful, especially since were down 1-0,” Avitia said. “It wasn’t the first time we were down 1-0 at half. At halftime, I told these boys, ‘Hey, we have been here before and we came back, so let's just do it again.'”
Canyon Del Oro opened the second half with a free kick close to the left sideline and near the 10-yard line. Cardenas cleared a ball away about a minute later, sending it out of bounds near the free kick spot, but the Dorados failed to capitalize on the throw-in.
Flagstaff then began its push to the victory, with Grieder the first to break through. Shooting from the left side of the box, Grieder put the ball right at the right post. Canyon Del Oro’s keeper failed to come up with the ball and a defender nearby couldn’t clear the tying goal.
Eagles head coach Mike Jenkins said Grieder’s goal loosened up his team a bit as it kept the pressure going in the minutes to follow as Campbell and Avitia had controlled the match’s attack so well thanks to a backline winning nearly every ball in the air.
Breaking away on one of his many runs up the sideline, Campbell launched a long cross to the waiting Avitia in the box. Flying into the air to connect with the incoming ball, Avitia sent it off the left post and out of bounds for a goal kick.
Campbell laughed and said he loved moments like that, as the anticipation of a potential goal ended up with nothing to show for it. However, the attacking duo found itself right back in the same spot a minute later.
Another cross by Campbell, this time low and to the feet of Avitia, ended up at the back of the net as the Eagles’ leading scorer sent the ball in from the left side with ease.
“Definitely it was a relief to get that one in,” Campbell said. “After so many opportunities and nice balls, it felt good to get one in at that point.”
While the match remained scoreless for the final 28 minutes, both sides put balls in the box with chances to score. A free kick by Guillermo Soto fell into a crowd, with the ball bouncing up off the crossbar again with under 23 minutes remaining. Avitia and Campbell nearly struck again in the match’s 72nd minute, with the former taking a back heel pass up the sideline before passing off to the latter. Campbell’s resulting shot found a familiar target, the left goalpost, with Flagstaff unable to follow up.
Canyon Del Oro’s last-gasp attempt in the final seconds off the match ended up too close for comfort for Flagstaff. A corner kick from the right came into the box, and the Dorados sent a shot high up over the goal and bounced off the field goal crossbar above the goal.
With the win, Flagstaff now hosts No. 5 Douglas on Tuesday. The Bulldogs finished the regular season 8-1-2 and beat No. 15 Glendale 2-0 in their first round match on Saturday.