The crowd roared in anticipation, but Sean Ayers stayed calm.
The Brophy senior patiently dribbled in front of the goal on Wednesday night before finding an opening and the back of the net to give the Broncos a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Hamilton in a 5A-I boys soccer showdown at Brophy Sports Campus.
The top-ranked Broncos (17-0-1) dealt No. 2 Hamilton (13-1-3) its first loss of the season in a match that may be a state championship preview.
“We tried not to lose our heads and just focus,” Ayers said. “We got it done.”
Ayers was in a crowd of players inside the box, but maneuvered his way to set up a clean shot and score.
“Staying calm is one of the most important parts of the game,” Ayers said. “If you’re calm when you should be jittery, that’s when everything falls into place.”
Hamilton led 1-0 on a Michael Markette header less than six minutes into the contest.
The score stayed that way through halftime, but Brophy picked up its aggressiveness after intermission.
Kevin Grigsby tied the match 11 minutes into the second half on a kick that hit the top crossbar and caromed down into the goal.
Ayers scored the winning goal with 16:34 remaining.
Both players were a part of Brophy’s 2008 championship team as freshmen.
“They’ve matured and come a long way in terms of their composure in front of the goal,” Kelly said. “They’ve improved tremendously.”
Hamilton and Brophy not only seem to be the top two teams in the state, but are also ranked among the elite nationally. The match lived up to the billing, as the packed stands watched the teams go back and forth throughout the contest.
Brophy won a tournament in California over the holidays against a slew of top teams, and it trailed in a couple of those contests. Kelly said that experience helped the Broncos stay calm after the early deficit.
“This is a mature group in terms of the way they approach the game, but it’s an emotional group for sure,” Kelly said. “If you can kind of get the emotions in check and understand that we’ve been in these spots before, then it’s pretty much gravy from there.”
The teams won’t play again in the regular season, but Ayers said he expects to see Hamilton in the state tournament.
“Hopefully in the finals,” he said.