It's destined to go down as one of the greatest singular efforts in the history of the Central Section's most successful girls soccer program -- a defining moment for a player taking her place alongside the greats who have helped deliver eight Division I championships in the past nine years to Buchanan High.
And for Caitlyn Kreutz, the run that produced the winning goal in the Bears' 2-1 victory over Bullard for the Division I title started out of desperation to prevent the game from going to overtime.
"I was tired," said Kreutz, The Bee's Player of the Year. "We needed a goal ASAP."
So with the match in the 80th minute, Kreutz stole the ball near midfield and dribbled past two Knights along the right sideline before making her way left, eventually knocking a left-footed shot from just outside the 6-yard box back to the right and past the goalkeeper seconds before the final whistle.
"I am really, really proud of myself for coming up in that moment and coming through," Kreutz said. "I think the fact that I stole it gave me a lot of momentum. I was like, 'I got it, now I've got to run with it.' But I didn't realize I was running by people."
In all, Kreutz maneuvered around or past four Bullard players, including one who unsuccessful tried to body bump her off the ball roughly 25 yards out.
"She took it upon herself to make it happen," Bears coach Orlando Ramirez said. "In the biggest moment on the biggest stage, she was able to perform. It takes a special person to be able to do that."
Ramirez isn't the only one who thinks Kreutz is special. So does Bullard coach Onesta Francis, who watched the junior not only score the winner against his Knights in the section final but also set up Buchanan's first goal with a nifty pass against a double team.
"She's the most dangerous player I saw this year -- and that was in the state as well," Francis said. "When we went up north we played against all kinds of girls who are on scholarships to all kinds of big schools, and they didn't put us under the pressure Kreutz did."
Putting pressure on opposing defenses was Kreutz's calling card during a season where she scored 22 goals and had eight assists (both team-leading totals) for a Buchanan squad that went 20-5-1, finished second in the Tri-River Athletic Conference and reached the semifinals of the CIF Southern California Regionals.
Kreutz joins Anisa Guajardo (2008), Kacey Held (2010) and Elise Krieghoff (2012) as recent Bears players named The Bee's Player of the Year.
"There have been a lot of prolific scorers that have come before her here," Ramirez said. "And for her to take on that role this year was huge and she played a big part in us being as successful as we were."
Buchanan has gone 59-13-4 with three section and two TRAC titles in Kreutz's three seasons, accomplishments she's as proud of as her career numbers of 43 goals and 22 assists.
"I really enjoy winning Valleys. It's a tradition at Buchanan," Kreutz said. "Being successful individually and leaving my own mark on the program was always a second priority to leaving the team mark. But it's all a part of me. I never wanted to be someone who just fit in. I like to win."
Player of the Year: Caitlyn Kreutz
• School: Buchanan
• Grade/position: Junior/forward
• The résumé: TRAC Player of the Year powered the Bears to third straight Central Section D-I title with 22 goals and eight assists, including the winning goal in Buchanan's 2-1 victory against Bullard in the final. Kreutz, committed to Cal Poly, has 43 goals and 22 assists in three years.
• He said it: "The thing that impressed me the most was her total commitment to playing both sides of the ball as a forward -- defending, winning balls back. And even if she wasn't winning the ball back, she was putting on pressure. Her work off the ball, this year more than ever, elevated her game to more of a complete package." -- Bears coach Orlando Ramirez.
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