It’s safe to say the Horizon Huskies had the magic formula against Ironwood this season.
Ironwood entered the 5A state playoffs with 21 wins and a tie as its only blemish. The Eagles were favored to win the championship as the No. 1 seed.
But there was one more blemish that got in Ironwood’s way Saturday afternoon, and it came from the same team.
In a rematch of their regular season 2-2 tie, Horizon took down Ironwood in convincing fashion with a 4-1 victory in the state title game at Dobson High School.
“This is just really special,” Horizon head coach Rafael Saragosa said of the victory.”We’ve had a lot of history with Ironwood and obviously they’re a great team, so this means a lot.”
Horizon entered as the No. 3 seed and finished with a record of 18-1-2.
Isaiah Benjamin scored two second half goals to help Horizon pull away, while the Husky defense put the clamps on Ironwood’s high octane offense, which had combined for 14 goals in its three previous playoff games.
“This is our state championship and we earned this on the field when it mattered most,” junior goalkeeper Alex Tomos said afterward.
“We’re state champions and we’re the best team in Horizon school history.”
The first half gave fans every reason to believe another close game was inevitable, but it was clear Horizon’s defense was dialed in once again.
Sophomore Bryan Romero scored for Ironwood in the first half, and had several narrow misses in the second half.
Kaden Cox and Luca Nieri-Lang scored for Horizon in the first half.
Horizon’s defense clamped down even tighter in the second half, and that’s when Benjamin took advantage with a couple highlight-reel worthy goals.
With 19:45, Benjamin scored from 10 yards out on a nifty, left footed kick with his body elevated and horizontal to the turf.
His next score was a head shot from close range, coming with 8:43 left to play and ultimately sealing the win and the championship.
“This is a hard pill to swallow right now,” Ironwood head coach Tim Beck said afterward, realizing the emotional pain of his players.
“There’s nothing I can say right now that will help, but the loss is not going to diminish our accomplishments this season.”