DAVIS — Merced High's Adrian Lomeli finally went low.
The Davis High (of Yolo County) boys soccer team had a considerable size advantage over Merced, and Bears coach Bart McAfee had repeatedly urged his team to stop serving free kicks high into the box.
His squad chose, instead, to bang their heads against the wall for the better part of 79 minutes on Thursday afternoon. Lomeli finally changed tactics in the 80th.
The sophomore drove a low swinging cross from about 25 yards out toward the six-yard box. The ball was allowed to bounce and glanced off of a few players before rolling into the side netting for the game's only goal.
The 1-0 victory over Davis advanced Merced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 semifinals for the second consecutive year.
The Bears will travel to top-seeded Jesuit, which defeated Modesto 4-1, next Wednesday for a rematch of last year's semifinal.
"I was just hoping to drive something low into the box and that it would hit off of somebody," Lomeli said. "They had some big guys and we weren't winning many headers. It was a little bit lucky it went in, but we'll take it."
The ugly goal was an almost predictable finish after both teams had squandered much better opportunities in a very evenly matched game.
Merced (22-7-4) finished with a 15-14 shot edge, putting nine of those on goal.
Only two of those shots on goal came in the opening half, however, as Merced showed some nerves in the opening 20 minutes.
The Bears eventually settled in and began controlling the game with its possession. That led to a pair of quality chances.
Jay Bounlangsy found space on the right wing, but pulled his shot wide. Francisco Rodriguez had a chance a couple minutes later, but his sliding shot glanced of of the crossbar.
Davis (16-5-3) got stung by the woodwork as well.
The Bears twice lost track of DJ Villegas in the second half. The Blue Devil striker pulled a shot just past the far post in the 42nd minute and then clanged a header off of the right post in the 50th.
"They had a couple big guys up front," stopper Jose Figueroa said. "Every time we tried to one-time things away, we were turning it over and getting in trouble.
"We're a team with good touch, so we talked at halftime about taking an extra one and making sure we hold onto the ball."
The extra bit of composure helped spring the Merced attack in the second half. The Bears forced six big saves out of goalkeeper Jesus Gutierrez.
Davis needed a seventh from him as Lomeli's last-minute cross found its way through everyone and into the back of the net.
"That was intense," McAfee said. "Both teams went back and forth at each other. Jon Carlo Tomayo had four big saves for us, and Adrian finally sent in a low ball that we got a good bounce on.
"It's a tough break for them, but we played well and deserved to win. Now we get a little time to rest and we'll try to do it again against Jesuit."