SPARKS - Seeing his team's three-goal halftime lead slipping away, Chaparral's Omar Bywaters made his best decision of the weekend. It came right after Bishop Gorman's Joe Zaher breakaway goal in the second half shifted momentum away from the Cowboys, who were clinging to a 4-3 lead.
Bywaters told his struggling defense, which was getting exposed by Zaher, that he'd manmark Zaher the rest of the way. It was move that allowed Chaparral to win its first state championship since 1993. Zaher never seriously threatened again and the Cowboys held on for a 5-3 win over the Gaels on Saturday in the NIAA/U.S. Bank 4A State Championship at Reed High.
"They (Bywaters and Zaher) know each other well and are two of the biggest standout players in the state," said Chaparral coach Dan Schell. "I think Omar made the call because he wants to be the best player on the field. And you don't become the best player on the field by hiding from the other team's best player."
The Cowboys' Daniel Nilsmo scored an insurance goal in injury time, his second goal of the game and fourth of the tournament that put the game away. He also scored two goals in Chaparral's 3-0 win over Reno on Friday in the semifinals. Mario Michel also added a pair of goals, his second one before halftime putting Chaparral up 4-1. Before that goal, Bywaters scored on direct kick outside the box.
"We knew they (Gorman) had a potent offense," Schell said. "We knew if we could score four goals in a half, they could definetly score four goals in the second half."
Gorman would have early in the second but Zaher missed two one-on-one chances. Then in the 52nd minute, Zaher's younger brother, Mike, scored on a volley to make it 4-2. A few minutes later, Joe Zaher then scored his second breakaway goal of the game. Bywaters had seen enough.
"It wasn't lackadasical on our part (giving up the lead)," said Bywaters, who was playing more forward on Saturday after playing defense against Reno. "The Zaher brothers are both great players and we just wanted to slow their momentum. As far as going against Joe, it was just the two best players in the state going at each other. I know how to stop him and he knows how to stop me. Joe's a very good player and when they scored their third goal, I told coach that they (the defense) are struggling back there and I just wanted to help out."
With Gorman pressing for the equalizer, Chaparral countered with numbers as Nilsmo beat a defender, then slipped a shot past Gael goalie Chris Moreo to finish the scoring.
"It was just a battle, a matter of survival," Schell said. " It (the state championship) sorted itself out. I think the two best teams in the state were playing each other."
It was Gorman's first loss of the season as it finishes 16-1-1. The Cowboys finish 19-1-1.