Through the first half of Thursday night's Northern 4A Regional Boys' Soccer semifinal match-up between Douglas and Reed, a casual observer might have thought the Tigers had already packed up their offense for the season.
After all, they weren't mounting much of an attack, they were subbing judiciously going a fair distance down the bench and they managed just three shots on goal.
It was all part of the plan, however, as Douglas unleashed a slew of scoring opportunities from about the midpoint of the second half on before Edgar Arceo sent a shot in from 25 yards out to score the game's only goal in the 64th minute, giving the Tigers a 1-0 win.
The win clinched both a spot in Saturday's regional title game and a berth in next week's state tournament.
"We knew it was going to come down to one goal," Douglas coach Milko Vasquez said. "That's why we played it back a little in the first half and subbed out so much.
"We knew Reed was a solid team and we wanted to save a charge for late in the game and it paid off for us. We know we have limitations, that's why we chose to play a very methodic game in the first half. We knew there was no way we'd be able to outrun them."
Indeed, it looked for a couple of minutes early on like Reed might run away with the game. The Raiders dominated possession for about the first 10 minutes and had two shots in the first five minutes that could have easily gone in if Tiger keeper Jose Alcaraz hadn't come up with big saves on each.
"The first couple minutes, there may have been a little nervousness, but outside of that the defense held their own pretty well," Vasquez said.
To say the least. The Douglas defense, anchored by Kyle Gardner, Ray Kaffer, Brian Randall, Geoff Rahe and Austin Shick, didn't allow another shot in the first half.
In the second half, Alcaraz sealed up the shutout with three saves to run his game total to five.
"A lot of the credit goes to the defense," Alcaraz said. "It's a team win. The defense helped me out and I helped them out. If I have a good game, they have a good game."
The Tigers were content to play the possession game until about 20 minutes remained in the game. Then they unleashed their offensive weaponry on the Raiders to see how it played out.
"The shift was something I don't think Reed was really prepared for," Vasquez said. "A lot of times with a team that plays a straight-ahead game like they do, they tend to defend the same way.
"We started getting the fullbacks to make some nice runs and emphasize those crosses to take advantage of the width of the field here. This field gives you that ability to spread the defense out and you have to play what the field gives you."
It was one of those fullback runs that set the winning goal up.
Kaffer received the ball about 10 yards across the half-line and carried it down the right sideline and toward the penalty box. He played a nice cross through the Raider defense to the opposite side of the field, where Arceo was waiting wide open.
Arceo touched the ball once to set the shot up and then planted it in the net from 25-yards out for the winner.
The Tigers had nearly taken the lead five minutes earlier on a similar play when Eddie Vega played the ball through to Andrew Andraski to draw the goalie out. Andraski directed the ball toward an open net on the fly but a Raider defender swept in and booted the ball away before it could go in.
On the ensuing corner, Arceo headed the ball just high over the crossbar.
"It's a credit to the kids, the way they played to today," Vasquez said. "Everyone was focused and everyone played hard. They've busted their tails for seven years playing together and now they are going to state. It's a great thing."
The state berth is the first for Douglas since 1998. The regional championship will be Saturday afternoon at Damonte Ranch High School in Reno.