BY STEPEN LYNCH Special to The Californian
This wasn't how Josh Schultz wanted his high school soccer career to end.
Not with a loss, especially one that could have easily turned out very differently.
But in a sport where the difference between winning a losing is often small, Schultz and the Centennial boys soccer team came up short by the thinnest of margins on Friday night.
With just over a minute left, Mason Gonzalez scored to lift No. 5 Clovis North to a 1-0 Central Section Division I quarterfinal victory over the fourth-seeded Golden Hawks.
On Tuesday, the Broncos (10-5-5) will face Clovis West, which beat Bakersfield.
Schultz, Centennial's senior goal keeper, played well against Clovis North, registering eight saves.
"It's just terrible," an emotional Schultz said. "This is the last high school (soccer) game I'll ever play in."
He had little chance to stop the Broncos' 11th shot on goal of the night as Gonzalez punched in a short volley off a Troy Sena corner kick.
Sena sent the ball into the middle of the Centennial box, where it was deflected several times before Gonzalez hit a high hard shot into the back of the net.
Gonzalez called the goal the biggest of his career. "This win is pretty big if we want to go to valley," he said. "That's what our goal is so we got to get one win at a time."
Just a couple of minutes before Gonzalez's game-winning goal, Centennial (12-9-3) narrowly missed breaking the scoreless tie.
Alec Vaughan blasted a hard free kick that Clovis North's goalkeeper rushed out of the box to field. But in process of doing so he slid to the ground and lost possession of the ball. Gianpiero Paletta rushed in and got off a solid shot from the right side that sailed just over the crossbar.
"It is a very tough way to lose," Centennial coach Jeff Vaughan said. "... I told these guys at the beginning of the game and told them again at halftime it was going to come down to a goal like that. You're either going to win this game in the box or lose this game in the box. And unfortunately we lost it in the box. A guy just got on a loose ball and put it in the back of the net...We had several opportunities where we could have done the same thing to them and we'd be on the other end of it."
After matching the Broncos with four shots on goal in the first half, Centennial had only two during the final 40 minutes.
Clovis North's goal came on its only corner kick of the game. The Golden Hawks had three corner kicks.
"It was a tight game," Clovis North coach Chad McCarty said. "We kind of got the impression that it was going to come down to a set-piece and it could have gone either way."