MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- The two remaining undefeated teams went head-to-head Tuesday night as the final games of the regular season kicked off during the Commanding General's Intramural Soccer League at Felix Field.
Both Headquarters Battalion 2 and Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School teams stepped onto the field with flawless records of 6-0. Battling not only each other, but also the 105-degree heat in the final night before the playoffs.
The fast-paced game would see HQBN 2 as the victors, closing the game with a 2-1 win and dealing MCCES their first loss.
"I don't know how we did it, and I'm not going to ask any questions," said HQBN 2 coach John Bass. "'Wow,' is all I can say about that."
Right from the start, both teams seemed to be playing full throttle, and both defenses were working overtime to repel the constant bombardments from their opponents.
"The hardest thing out there for us tonight was their defense," said Abel Saenz, HQBN 2 forward and team captain.
However, MCCES' offense penetrated and scored a goal before the half, bringing MCCES ahead 1-0.
"I was worried," said Saenz. "We were up against a great team tonight, but I knew we had it in us. We've come back and won it before, and I knew we could do it again."
The halftime break gave teams a chance to review their strategies and revamp their efforts.
Hitting the field with no loss of energy or enthusiasm, players again tried to coax the ball within range of the goal.
And only a few minutes into the second half, HQBN 2 made it happen as they tied MCCES 1-1.
"We are a second half team, and we've proven that over and over again," said Tommy Sak, HQBN goalie. "That's the way we are going to win our games, is shining in the second half."
Not long after the score was tied, Saenz maneuvered the ball through the defenses and scored, bringing HQBN 2 to lead 2-1.
"After we took the lead and had the advantage, we sometimes fall into a lull and we think that we have the game and the other team [may be] playing harder, which is a disadvantage for us," said Saenz.
"Once we had our second goal, the momentum was ours," said Sak. "But when we get to that point where we have the advantage, we need to keep that momentum."
As the time on the scoreboard ticked nearer to zero, multiple handballs, foul shots and close calls seemed to assault the HQBN goal.
But with steadfast calm, fast hands and an impressive vertical leap, Sak was able to repel the invasions until the game was called, sealing the win for HQBN 2, 2-1, and giving them the lead spot going into the playoffs.
"Tommy Sak is amazing in the goal box," said Bass. "He kept us in the game, and Saenz put it away for us tonight."
"Like we have been all season, we are indeed a second-half team," continued Bass. "Yes, we took first in the [regular] season tonight, but now we need to start working towards the playoffs."
Also playing Tuesday night were HQBN 1 and 1st Tank Battalion. Tanks took the win 3-1.
The playoffs began last night in the form of a double elimination tournament with all six teams playing. The remaining games will be held at 5:30 p.m. at Felix Field Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights.