Leighty's PK lifts Clovis North to the Central Section D-II soccer title

The Fresno BeeFebruary 25, 2012 

John Leighty -- standing on the 12-yard penalty spot, facing west and directly into the setting sun Saturday at McLane Stadium -- could have been blinded both by light and pressure.

Make this to close a penalty-kick shootout and Clovis North High's boys win the Central Section Division II soccer championship.

Miss and there would be sudden death penalty kicks on a day Sunnyside extended the dramatics with a last-second goal in regulation but missed by 2 inches from winning it in sudden death overtime when Gerado Farfan's point-blank header hit the inside of the post.

Back to Leighty, who might as well have been blindfolded, because it didn't matter.

"I've gone right all my life, so I just stuck it home where I know how to hit it," the junior said after rifling a shot about 4 feet high, out of the reach of diving goalie Kevin Zambrano, and into the right side of the net to give the fourth-seeded Broncos a 4-3 triumph.

Teammates Jerry Castillo, Kory Kisling, Hugo Santiago and Mark Gong had preceded him with successful penalty kicks in the third phase of extra play that offered each team five attempts.

Second-seeded Sunnyside (18-6-2), which opened its season with a 3-1 nonleague win at Clovis North, scored on its first (Zambrano), second (Farfan), third (Epi Martinez) and fifth (Jose Lemus) penalty-kick attempts.

But it was the Wildcats' fourth, with Cesar Garcia aiming low and left, that was swallowed by Clovis North goalie Tomasso Ferri. It closed a remarkable performance by Ferri, who came off the bench to start the second half and, in one 3-minute sequence, saved three shots.

"I owed it to my coaches and teammates," he said, "because I got suspended for two weeks [during the season] for tardies."

Regarding the decision to replace Jacob Valencia in the cage with Ferri, Broncos coach Chad McCarty said: "It was a hunch, and we don't normally do that. The way Sunnyside was playing, we thought Tomasso would give us a better option."

Clovis North (15-14), which tied for third in the Tri-River Athletic Conference behind Central and D-I champion Buchanan, received two goals by Shant Avadis in regulation.

And it finished tied, 2-2, when Zambrano was turned to by coach Mike Sosa after the Broncos' Luke Lyster was yellow-carded for fouling Isaac Monjaras in the penalty box. Zambrano then fired low, left and good on the penalty kick.

A header by Clovis North's Justin Barrett was answered by one from Sunnyside's Monjaras in the first 10-minute overtime session.

Then the Wildcats were denied their section boys soccer title when Farfan's header kissed the post 3 minutes into sudden death.

Sosa -- the only coach the County/Metro Athletic Conference program has had -- said: "I've been playing since 1976 and coaching for 16 years, and that's one of the best games I've ever been involved in.

"Sometimes you do everything you can to put the boys in a winning situation, but the ball doesn't go your way. Our season went off the post."

The reporter can be reached at aboogaard@fresnobee.com or (559)441-6366. Follow him on Twitter: @beepreps.

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