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The Fountain Hills High School boys soccer team put up a strong battle in its final game of the season, going all the way to penalty kicks in a showdown to get into the playoffs. Unfortunately for the local squad, it was not meant to be.

The past week began on Feb. 4 for Fountain Hills, when the local boys travelled to Scottsdale Academy Prep for the last game of the regular season. The Falcons lost the game 2-1.

Then, on Feb. 7, the Falcons took on Gilbert Christian Academy in a “play-in” matchup versus Gilbert Christian to take part in the playoffs. The Falcons pushed the match into penalty kicks but ultimately lost, 2-2 (3-2).

Scottsdale Prep

If it wasn’t just for a few minutes where the Falcons were caught off guard, FHHS might have won their game against Scottsdale Prep.

“SPA started off with an immediate goal 30 seconds into the game,” head coach Matt Pugliano said. “Quick ball movement on their part caught us sleeping. Thankfully, we would tie the game on a long throw-in by Will Eggert, who found Marrec Collins on the run. Marrec did an excellent job finding a seam and getting a quality shot on goal.”

Unfortunately, the same thing happened again at the start of the second half, with Scottsdale catching the Falcons off guard in the opening minutes to score a second goal.

Fountain Hills spent the rest of the game peppering shots on Scottsdale’s goal.

“We spent the rest of the night in their end, constantly putting their goal under siege,” Pugliano said. “It would take Herculean efforts on the part of their keeper to keep us out of the net. I was disappointed by the result, but I didn’t think we played poorly. We had two lapses in concentration, but otherwise we were in their end and putting the pressure on them.”

Gilbert Christian

Going into this play-in game Pugliano and his team made sure to do as much research on their opponents as possible.

Their hard work paid off as, for the first 30 minutes of play, the Falcons and Gilbert went back and forth on the pitch in search for an opening.

Gilbert struck first.

“Their first goal came on a shot from distance that hit the crossbar and then the rebound was finished by a GCA forward,” Pugliano said. “At halftime, I spoke to the guys and told them that we had to stay positive and focus on getting the first goal before we could win. Our goal would come from a great ball sent through the gap for Marrec Collins to run onto.”

The match stayed 1-1 for the rest of regular play and then went into overtime.

“In overtime, the teams play two 10-minute halves, regardless of if anyone scores,” Pugliano explained. “GCA would get another goal on a questionable play as they sent in a free kick, which keeper Dylan Shipman came out to get. As Shipman was grabbing the ball, he was fouled and the ball fell into the net. The ref declined to call the foul and gave GCA the goal.”

The Falcons were able to keep their spirits up and score another goal as the clock was running out.

“Literally 30 seconds before the end of overtime, Senior Ryan Griggs sent an amazing cross from half field into the GCA defensive area that Caden Collins was able to run onto and head up over the keeper to tie the game at 2-2,” Pugliano said.

Tied for a second time, the match went to a shootout, which FHHS lost 3-2.

“I was incredibly proud of the way the boys played all game long, most playing for the full 100 minutes and taking a shot in penalty kicks,” Pugliano said. “This is what we trained for for so long, and it was nice to get a shot in the playoffs once again.”