In what might have been a preview of the championships ahead, Mission High’s soccer team beat the previously undefeated Lowell High team for the first time in two years, handing Lowell its first loss of the season. The final score was 4-2.
With more fans in attendance than usual, the game was intense for players and coaches.
Lowell had the first shot toward the goal, but Mission was the first to put a goal in the net. In the tenth minute, Marco Caballero from Mission High shot a free kick on the right side of the penalty box and bent it in near the far pole.
“They are a strong team,” Caballero said, “but by the looks of today we have a better team than them and we will be waiting for them in the final as well.”
Throughout the game, the referee made controversial calls that were questioned by Mission.
Mission High coach Scott Kennedy showed his frustration at the 30-minute mark when he yelled at the referee, “Are we going to play soccer or are you going to blow the whistle all day?”
The referee took Kennedy aside, and minutes later Mission’s principal, Eric Guthertz, went to talk to Kennedy to “calm him down and make sure his blood pressure was OK.”
Guthertz said the two have known each other for a long time. As Guthertz was leaving, Kennedy said jokingly, “OK, Dad.”
Mission assistant coach Wilson Jimenez said, “Sometimes you’ve got to let the teams play, because if you’re always stopping the ball, the momentum of the game goes away.”
Caballero had two opportunities before the half as he dribbled inside the box, but his shots went wide and high.
Lowell head coach Marcos Estebez told his team at halftime that the game was as close as the score indicated. “We are still in this game,” he said.
With a lead of 1-0, the Bears started the second half, but not in the way they wished for: Lowell scored two goals in 10 minutes. The first was a corner kick header by Zack Weisenburger and the second was off a free kick by Jesus “Chava” Sanchez. The ball soared around the Mission wall and past Mission goalkeeper Marcos Lopez.
“The sun was in the way. I slipped. I had it, but I was unlucky,” said Lopez. “I stuck my head up. I knew my team was going to come forward and knew we were going to make those goals.”
Mario Mejia from Mission said, “We got confident and careless on the defense but it helped to give us courage.”
Mission kept pushing forward and was able to capitalize on a corner kick rebound from a Lowell defender at minute 15, when Fidel Cazares kicked a shot to tie the game 2-2.
A few minutes later, Mission was on top when Walter Sevillano scored on a corner kick.
For the reminder of the game, Lowell attempted to put pressure on Mission as fans yelled to the referee to check his watch to see if time had expired. In the last minutes of the game, Caballero got possession of the ball deep on Mission’s side of the field. Instead of clearing it out, he looked up the field to find teammate Mario Mejia all by himself. Caballero sent him a pass and Mejia was able to run 50 yards and pass the goalie to score the final goal of the game.
“When I got the ball,” Caballero said, “I turned and saw that he had no one covering him and I was praying that the ball wasn’t going to go out of bounds and for the ball to get to him.”
Mission’s last game of the season will be Tuesday, Oct. 23, against June Jordan High School at home. The playoffs start Oct. 25 at Matthew J. Boxer Stadium near Balboa Park.