Although Notre Dame Prep had to come from behind to reach the Division II boys state soccer championship game, having to do it again was compounded by a fractured afternoon that led to numerous cards.
It combined with Tucson Salpointe Catholic for eight yellow and two red cards - both of those ejections coming late in the game against Notre Dame - in a tightly officiated game that kept either team from establishing much rhythm, let alone possession.
It didn't help the Saints that Salpointe took advantage of its first good opportunity on its way to a 3-0 win over Notre Dame to win its first state title since sharing a championship with Gilbert in 2004, before they decided ties with a penalty kick shootout.
"It definitely was a physical game," senior Luke Zaro said. "They were a good team. I can't take anything away from them. We played our hearts out and it just wasn't our day today."
The tone was set early when the referee gave three yellow cards in the first 17 minutes.
"It's hard for us when they want to play physical," Notre Dame coach Kenny Hack said. "It's the state championship game and you are getting called that you have to move the throw-in two feet backwards. It takes a lot out of you. I thought that was very unfair to the boys. They worked very, very hard to get here and for a game to be called like that, it was just unfair."
Just over a minute into the match, the Lancers' Auturo Vega got the ball to Christian Garcia about 15 yards out and he turned and put the ball in the right corner of the net, just beyond the reach of Notre Dame goalkeeper Will Groves.
The teams played a physical first half, with six yellow cards drawn, keeping either team from gaining any traction.
"You don't get any momentum, you have nothing going forward, you feel like you are working so hard and then it just taken away," Hack said. "The first goal, just miscommunication, that happens in soccer, especially in high school soccer but the boys have been down before, they were down in the semifinal game. They were okay with it. They just couldn't come back from what was going on on the field."
As it was, defending 4A-II state champion Notre Dame didn't get many quality chances on Salpointe while Groves had to make a couple of key saves. The biggest were in the 38th minute whent the Lancers got a free kick from 23 yards out by Vega that Groves blocked, but Michael Phillips got the rebound and Groves had to make another stop.
In the second half, Notre Dame had to make Salpointe goalkeeper Estevan Romero dive for a save on a long shot by Michael Truty and Dean Stevens almost caught Romero out of position in the 62nd minute.
"As the clock starts to wind down, you want that goal more and more and emotions start riding high and it happens," Zaro said of the repeated warnings.
Salpointe had a several near-misses as well as T.J. Hope got off a few shots against Groves and hit the crossbar on a header in the 68th minute.
But it wasn't until the 71st when Emilio Villatoro knocked a ball over Groves head that Salpointe had control. The Saints had their first ejection shortly after that. Then, Salpointe's Luis Castro found Vega on a header in the 75th minute to complete the scoring. Another ejection came in the waning seconds.
"We really needed to find that momentum, we just couldn't today," Zaro said. "It was still a great year. We lost 14 seniors and came back just as strong, in a harder division. It was a very good season."
A Tucson school won every 4A-I championship match from 2005 to 2011.