With first place in the PAC 7 on the line between the league’s two unbeaten teams, and the match tied with just under three minutes left before a possible overtime, the stage was set for an MVP type of a moment.
That’s exactly what Morgan Wack delivered.
Wack, a senior midfielder for the Arroyo Grande High boys soccer team, scored a game-winning goal in the 87th minute Friday night at Doug Hitchen Stadium, leading the Eagles to a 2-1 win over Paso Robles.
By lofting the ball just beyond the reach of Bearcats goalkeeper Daniel Fuerte from about 10 yards out, Wack — last year’s PAC 7 MVP — left Arroyo Grande (9-4-3, 5-0-0) alone atop the league standings.
“Luck fell our way today,” Wack said. “We got it through, and I was able to finish it.
“It’s always great to score goals like that, especially against a team that’s 3-0 in league. This isn’t the end. It’s still the first half of the season, and we’re going to play them again, but it’s a great way to start the season.”
Wack was also an all-CIF-Southern Section Division 5 first-team honoree a year ago.
“He was in the right place at the right time,” Arroyo Grande coach Brad Bowdey said.
Bearcats coach Evan Clark said he anticipated this kind of a showdown, one that could go down to the wire with a classic finish.
“I knew it was going to be a close game right to the end,” Clark said. “I was thinking it was going to be an overtime game there for a while.
“Unfortunately we just weren’t able to get the edge that we needed tonight.”
The Eagles scored first, as Christian Garcia put a header into the net on a throw-in by Matt Corella in the 27th minute.
Paso Robles (11-3-1, 3-1-0) answered in the 49th, as Angel Guevara capitalized on a Daniel Arevalo feed to knot the score 1-1.
“They’re a great team,” Wack said. “They played really well.”
Bowdey also credited Paso Robles for its high-pressure defense and said the Bearcats’ equalizer served to ratchet up his own squad’s intensity the rest of the way.
“After they got that goal, it seemed like the switch came on, and our energy came up a couple notches,” Bowdey said.
Just when it looked like regulation wouldn’t be enough to settle the outcome, Pepe Fonseca set up Wack for what proved to be the game-winner.
Fuerte, who was routinely helped by some standout play by defender Erick Medina, finished with five saves. Edgar Ramirez made eight saves for Arroyo Grande.
The Bearcats will welcome Arroyo Grande for a rematch Feb. 7.
“It’ll be interesting to see how our boys bounce back,” Clark said. “We’ve got a long way to go. It’s certainly not time to start being negative and disappointed.”
On Jan. 3, Arroyo Grande staked an early claim to looking like the league favorite when it beat two-time defending champion Righetti, 2-1, in Santa Maria. That was the Eagles’ first road win over the Warriors in at least half a decade.
A year ago, Righetti tied Arroyo Grande 2-2 in the regular-season finale, sending the Warriors into the divisional playoffs as the league’s No. 1 seed via a points system. But the Eagles went on to outlast Righetti in the postseason, advancing to the quarterfinal round and finishing 19-8-2 overall.
“We’re excited,” Bowdey said. “But we know this is a 12-game season.
“We’re well aware that everybody’s going to be gunning for us. It’s definitely great being 5-0, but there are some challenges way ahead of us.”