Mission complete as Sundevils win state crown
SANTA ANA PUEBLO — Its players might have brushed off the notion of revenge, but judging by the game’s opening moments, top-seeded Sandia Prep was clearly a team on a mission in its Class 1A-3A boys championship matchup against No. 2 Robertson.
The Sundevils (15-8) struck for two goals within the first seven minutes and controlled the action the rest of the way in a 3-0 victory over the Cardinals (15-6) at the Soccer Complex on Friday. Not only did the victory avenge a loss to the last team to beat them during the regular season, but it gave Sandia Prep its first blue trophy in five years.
“When we played them (on Oct. 13) we were missing a couple guys, and we played a completely different formation. I actually changed the lineup after that game,” Sundevils coach Tommy Smith said. “We didn’t lose a game after that.
“It was easy to motivate my guys with that game, being that they had beaten us.”
Sandia Prep’s speed and aggression was the difference, as it was able to capitalize on a pair of breakaways in the early going. Senior midfielder Brian Altavas got the Sundevils on the board with a goal in the fifth minute.
“I just knew that if we started fast and strong, we’d get one eventually,” Altavas said. “Non-stop just keep going and just working. That’s what we did.”
The Sundevils cheering section had barely finished celebrating Altavas’ score when Lucas Sandoval broke through for another goal just two minutes later. Adding to the dramatics, the senior forward fell to the turf after becoming entangled with the Robertson goal keeper as the ball rolled into the net. Sandoval stayed on the ground for a moment before standing and turning toward the Sandia Prep side with his arms outstretched.
Though there were still more than 70 minutes to play, it was basically a formality from there.
“Honestly it just felt so amazing to know I got that goal and just to do it for my boys,” Sandoval said. “And just really get that edge on them.”
Sandia Prep stayed on the offensive for the majority of the game, but to its credit, Robertson thwarted a number of scoring chances within its box to keep the deficit manageable. The Sundevils added a third goal on a beautiful set piece in the 65th minute, with Shamus O’Leary assisting Sandoval to put the game out of reach.
Accoring to Sandoval, the thought of revenge never occurred to him. “All business,” he said. Nonetheless, Smith said he and his team learned from its struggles against the Cardinals in the regular season, when it was shorthanded in a 1-0 defeat. The quick start was all part of the plan.
“We wanted to come out extremely hard, press them and not let them get comfortable. When we played them earlier in the season we split two games with them,” Smith said. “The first time we came out hard and got two goals early. We played them up there, and we never got into a rhythm. We figured with our speed up front, we could cause all kinds of problems.”
Sandia Prep players walk off the field after they beat Robertson Friday to win the 1A-3A state championship. It is the first title in five years for a program that is a perennial contender in the sport.