VISALIA — A Central Section boys Division II soccer championship plaque displayed today at Sunnyside High doesn't tell the whole story.
• The Wildcats' 2-1 win over El Diamante was their first title in the 14-year history of the program.
• The Miners arrived 21-2-2, as West Yosemite League champions, the division's top seed, and, according to section historian Bob Barnett, also driving for their first title.
• Sunnyside pulled it off all on the road as a No. 7 seed, also conquering No. 2 Golden West 2-1 in overtime and Reedley 2-1 in the semis after having been swept by the North Yosemite League champion in conference play.
• And, finally, the Wildcats repelled a furious El Diamante charge in the final minutes as senior goalie Ismael Farfan swatted away shot after shot, often one-handed.
Only Brandon Gomez scored late for the Miners out of a scrum in front of the cage. And Farfan nearly swallowed that one as well.
"Those guys were tall and talented," Farfan said. "But our team fought hard and got it done. First seed, second seed, third seed — no matter — we proved we were the better team. (The section seeding committee) doubted us, but we proved them wrong."
Larry Valencia assisted Sunnyside's first goal on Alexis Jimenez's breakaway 10 minutes into the game.
"That kind of took the wind out of us," Miners coach Augie Gonzalez said, "and it took us a while to recover."
Valencia also scored in the 55th minute — a splendidly placed 25-yard laser inside the upper-right post, rendering goalie Leo Arreola virtually helpless.
"The perfect moment, the perfect shot and I just felt it," Valencia said.
He said the team was "misjudged" by the seeding committee two weeks ago: "We deserved something better. They doubted us and we proved them wrong."
The committee, perhaps understandably, wasn't wowed by the Wildcats' 10-6-3 regular-season record and 6-4 mark in the NYL.
But Michael Sosa, who has coached Sunnyside since its inception, pointed to a daunting nonleague schedule that included games against D-I powers Clovis West, Buchanan and Bullard, and another against San Jose perennial heavyweight Bellarmine Prep, which the Wildcats beat 1-0.
"When the seedings came out, I used the committee's lack of respect for our program as motivation for our players," Sosa said. "I was stunned; I expected nothing lower than a 5 (seed)."
From Day 1, he said his team pointed to the stage upon which it played Thursday night.
And Sunnyside had only been there once previously, losing 4-3 to Clovis North in the 2012 D-II championship.
"We had one goal," Sosa said, "and we advertised it on videos on campus from the beginning of the season — that was to do this tonight. That was our sole and only goal. We didn't play in tournaments. And league didn't matter. All the preparation was for tonight."
The end result gathered the Wildcats and a large traveling fan base on the field in celebration.
"We played very disciplined and with a lot of maturity the entire game, especially in those last 10 minutes, when it got pretty tough," Sosa said.
"I told the boys from the beginning this was the deepest and most rounded team we've had; we didn't have holes. It was just a matter of time to get the correct guys in the correct positions. And, tonight, they were phenomenal."
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