MADERA – The golden goal dropped lightning quick, giving renewed life to the Clovis West High boys soccer team.
Matt Stephenson scored 17 seconds into sudden death to lift the Golden Eagles to a 5-4 victory over Madera in the opening round of the Central Section Division I playoffs Wednesday at Memorial Stadium.
Clovis West, which staggered into the postseason as the 10th of 12 seeds with a 5-8-4 record, advances to Friday's quarterfinals, where it will face No. 2 Stockdale in Bakersfield.
"We have a clean slate," Stephenson said. "We've been working hard in practice and we're ready to go. This is a streaky team. I think we can win this thing."
After playing more than 100 minutes of soccer – including two 10-minute overtimes – Clovis West took the opening kickoff of sudden death and got the ball to Nick Starr, who found Stephenson making a run down the middle.
"I was nervous at first because I knew the ball was coming to me," Starr said. "But I dropped back and saw [Stephenson] running, so I sent a rocket to him."
Stephenson took care of the rest, firing a shot into the right corner of the net for the winner.
"He sent a great ball across, I knew it would be there," Stephenson said. "I just trapped it off my chest and finished it."
Clovis West led 1-0 at halftime on Ricky Coppo's goal, and went up 3-2 with 5 minutes left in regulation on a goal by Eddie Fernandez.
But seventh-seeded Madera (17-9-2) rallied each time, getting two early second-half goals from Luis Hernandez to go up 2-1, and a goal from Alfredo Estrada with 4 minutes left in regulation that tied it at 3-3.
The Golden Eagles scored first in overtime, on Nate Ruble's goal, but the Coyotes forced sudden death when Estrada put in his second goal with 2:35 left in the second overtime.
"It was a signature of our season, we answered and answered," Madera coach Chris Baca said. "The early exit is hard, but I'm proud of these boys."