TEMECULA — Long before the ball touched his foot, Ricardo Martinez kept telling himself that something great was about to happen.
"I kept repeating to myself out loud that I was going to score, over and over again," said Martinez, a junior midfielder for Great Oak. "It's kind of like a spiritual thing I do. Whatever you believe, you will succeed."
Martinez was true to his words. His keen goal at the 33-minute mark of the first half gave visiting Great Oak the lead for good Tuesday night in a pivotal 4-1 victory over Chaparral as the Wolfpack (13-3-2, 7-0-2) clinched their third consecutive Southwestern League boys' soccer title. Chaparral (11-7-4, 5-1-3) remains in second place with one league game remaining.
Ariel Lassiter scored the Wolfpack's final two goals, the second coming with about 10 minutes remaining in the game.
The Pumas, who played the Wolfpack to a 2-2 tie in their first meeting, led 1-0 on a Julian Wells goal, and Chaparral controlled most of the action for much of the first half.
But the game appeared to swing after Great Oak finally found a way to score.
"The unlucky part about scoring so early is it might give you a false sense of security," said Great Oak coach Adam Skumawitz. "(Chaparral) might have let down a bit, and we pressed hard, and we started taking the momentum away."
Wolfpack junior forward Dominic Elizondo knotted the game when he followed in his missed header at the 28-minute mark.
Elizondo leaped over two defenders and directed the ball toward the left post. The ball bounced back and he pounced on it, scoring easily.
"I knew it was going to hit the post, so I stayed there and was just hoping it would come out and bounce my way," said Elizondo, who scored his sixth goal of the year. "When it came back, I knew I just had to hit it and it would go in.
"After that, we got a lot of momentum, and kept rolling the rest of the game."
Pumas coach Omar Benjoud agreed.
"We lost our focus after (the) first goal," Benjoud said. "We should have slowed the game down and kept possession. When you don't keep the ball, you lose control of the game."
Martinez believed the ball would come his way, and it eventually did. He raced down the middle of the field while his teammate, Bryson Gaitan, drew two defenders to the left side.
Chris Gaitan (Bryson's brother) played a perfect pass from left to right, placing it in perfect position for Martinez to one-time it easily into the bottom right corner of the net, giving Great Oak a 2-1 lead.
"I couldn't have done it without the magnificent pass by Chris, and without the great run by Bryson," Martinez said. "It was a great team effort by everyone tonight."
Said Skumawitz, now in his second year as coach: "We just needed to continue to stick with the game plan. We performed very well tonight, and we got a great result."