Koben Barrientos scores late goals to lift HHH in boys soccer playoffs

ksalter@islandpacket.comMay 14, 2014 

For a while, it looked like this would be a game of missed opportunities.

In the end, though, Koben Barrientos seized the advantage and propelled the Hilton Head Island High boys soccer team to a 3-1 victory over St. James in the first round of the Class 3-A playoffs.

Barrientos, a sophomore, scored with 2:14 left in the first period of extra time off an assist from senior Eneo Torres, putting the Seahawks in front for good after the Sharks had tied the game with just three minutes left in regulation. Barrientos added another one with 5:18 to play in the second overtime period, powering one in after a fortunate bounce.

"I actually thought he was going to take it himself," Barrientos said. "I ran as fast as I could to get there. We both looked at each other and he passed it right to me. We had to work together as a family so we could get through this together."

It was Torres who struck first with 24:45 to play in the second half, his low strike coming after a slick half-pirouette freed space in the penalty area to give Hilton Head a 1-0 lead.

Just when it looked like that would be enough, however, Tristen Fields muscled in a late goal to tie the score.

The Seahawks defense failed to clear the ball following a corner kick and allowed the equalizer with just three minutes remaining.

"I thought Eneo had won it with that goal over there," head coach Wayne Quinlan said. "I don't know what happened. It looked like a pinball machine there and all the sudden it was in the back of the net."

If the Seahawks had converted even a few of their first-half chances, the game would have been out of sight before then. First it was sophomore Noa Pagataptan, whose low shot from the edge of the penalty box was stopped by a diving keeper.

Then sophomore Nick Hoffman saw his header go just over the bar. Sophomore Kevin Palacio later hesitated just a second too long in front of the net before halftime.

On the other end, the visiting Sharks were missing chances of their own. St. James was most dangerous on the counterattack, and nearly took the lead more than once in the first half, including on one attempted half-volley that struck only the outside of the net.

It would have been easy enough to succumb to frustration after so many close calls, but this Seahawks team has prided itself on persistence all year long. That wasn't about to end come playoff time.

"It was really frustrating, because we had my first goal and we can't get too confident," Torres said. "We were upset that we had some opportunities and we missed them, but the best thing we had to do was keep our heads up."

Hilton Head High finally unlocked the defense when Torres used a clever turn to free up his winning shot. It was a flash of extra quality in a tightly-contested match. The two teams have a history of close postseason encounters.

In 2012, the Seahawks won a 2-1 first-round matchup with the Sharks on the way to a state final. Hilton Head High was also victorious in a 2010 meeting.

For the home team, this was a good time for history to repeat itself, though it took some work. The inventiveness on the ball of senior Torres and the speed of Hoffman and sophomore Koben Barrientos was constantly stifled by the St. James defense. Still, with a small but boisterous crowd cheering the home team on, the defending state champions felt it was only a matter of time.

"We showed a lot of resilience," Quinlan said. "I was telling them that we are made for moments like that."

The Seahawks advanced to play the winner of Brookland-Cayce and Marlboro County on Thursday.

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