Galt High boys soccer player Jason Welch jumped on a teammate’s shoulders for a piggyback ride.
The duo raced down Tokay High’s Hubbard Field and high-fived Galt fans. Then they rushed back to the Warrior bench to rejoin their teammates for a victorious celebration.
Some 10 minutes prior, top-seeded Galt captured its second consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title — and third in four seasons — with a 2-0 win over No. 2 Livingston on Thursday in Lodi. Last year, Galt defeated Livingston 3-2 in the title game at Elk Grove High.
“You don’t get too many opportunities to be in the finals,” Welch said. “Once-in-a-lifetime experience. To do it against the same team is a blessing.”
Added Galt co-head coach Dane White: “I couldn’t be more proud of these boys. Here we are against Livingston again.”
Next for Galt and Livingston is the California Interscholastic Federation NorCal playoffs. The CIF is expected to release the NorCal and SoCal brackets on its website — cifstate.org — on Sunday.
On Thursday, Galt (22-1-1) wasted no time in scoring on Livingston (23-3-2), with Warrior forward Gilberto Lopez firing the ball into the left corner of the net in the 11th minute for a 1-0 lead.
Six minutes later, Galt, which kept possession of the ball on the north side of Hubbard Field for most of the opening half, looked like it would net its second goal of the game when midfielder Alexis Gonzalez took a shot on goal from the left side of the field. However, Livingston goalie Martin Mendoza stretched out his arms and deflected the ball out of play.
“Our attack has been a problem for several games now,” Welch said. “We just wanted to change it up, come out in the first half and see what problems we can cause.”
In the 23rd minute, it was Welch’s turn. From the right side of the field, Welch, after battling a few Livingston players for the ball, fired the ball past Mendoza into the left corner of the net for a 2-0 lead.
“There was no question in our minds that we would have to be aggressive with them, straight out of the gate. It worked out well for us,” White said.
The Warriors and Wolves were locked in defensive battle in the first half, with the physical play leading to two yellow cards, one on each team. Livingston striker Julian Cabrera was carded for his play on Galt defender Nathan Villalobos in the 21st minute and Warrior midfielder Francisco Alvarez received one in the 30th minute.
In the 44th minute, Livingston was able to get couple of shots on goal, but Galt goalie Maico Ortiz had a sliding save in front of the box and a roller that kept the Wolves scoreless.
We shifted our guys back a little bit. We just didn’t encourage as much as offensive action,” White said. “I thought they just put in incredible work tonight. If you would’ve watched our first games of the year, our mids struggled, they didn’t communicate well. We had a really hard time distributing the ball.”
The physical play between the two teams continued in the second half. The result were two more yellow cards; Livingston striker Estevan Moreno in the 59th minute and Lopez in the 77th minute.
Both teams battled for possession of the ball at midfield in the final minutes of the game, with Galt maintaining control of the soccer ball until the final whistle. That’s when Galt players on the field swarmed their teammates who were on the sidelines, hugged and shook hands with one another along with White and fellow co-head coach Alfredo Renteria.
Galt and Livingston players displayed good sportsmanship after the game that included additional handshakes and hugs after receiving their patches, hats and blue banner.
“I think there’s going to be energy when we play at home,” White said of the pending NorCal playoff opener. “Last year, the way we lost to Alisal (in the NorCal opener) was hard on us. We have an incredible supportive group of Galtonians who come out, and the city of Galt has been really generous with us.”
Contact Mike Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.