LIVINGSTON -- Hilmar High forward Michael Gonzales surveyed a free kick with just seconds remaining in Monday's game against Livingston, wondering if he should take the shot or loft it into the box for a teammate.
He saw the wall of Livingston players back up just a little bit and decided to let a shot go.
Gonzales' shot sailed over the wall and into the right corner of the net with about 10 seconds left as Hilmar tied Livingston 3-3.
It was the second tie in the three-game series between the teams and showed how even the competition is in the Western Athletic Conference.
"I kept watching, and then it was just open," said Gonzales, who has 11 goals this season. "I couldn't believe it."
Livingston (8-4-2, 7-1-2 WAC) players scrambled to move the ball to midfield to put the ball in play, but the referee blew the final whistle.
"That was incredible," Hilmar coach Louie Bettencourt said. "That's what I've been looking for all year."
The goal helped Hilmar (12-4-3, 6-3-2 WAC) stay in the playoff race.
Two teams in the WAC will earn Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoff berths. That's one fewer than last season. Patterson (17-3, 9-1 WAC) sits in first place with Livingston second and Hilmar third with two weeks left in the regular season.
Hilmar defeated Livingston 2-1 in overtime to win the Division V championship last season, and the three teams are battling similarly this season.
"Us, Patterson and Livingston, it's going to come down to those teams," Bettencourt said. "They are only taking two to the playoffs, so that's why this tie gives us another point and we're that much closer. We're going to need a little help from some of the other teams. We have a great chance."
Part of what gives Hilmar a great chance is its diverse scoring. The Yellowjackets have four players in double digits in goals, including Jordan Bettencourt, who scored Hilmar's first two goals Monday.
Hilmar's first goal came two minutes into the game when Gonzales chipped a ball from the left side into the box. Bettencourt charged the ball, and with a man closely covering him, headed the pass into the top right corner of the goal.
Forward Martin Arista gave Livingston a 3-2 lead midway through the second half when he faked a shot with his right foot, causing Scott Silva to jump. Arista crossed over and sneaked it through the bottom right corner of the goal.
PATTERSON 6, ORESTIMBA 0, at Patterson -- The Tigers (9-1 WAC) remained in first place in the WAC with a shutout of the Warriors (1-8-2). James Santana scored two goals, and Gerardo Cortez and Avelino Valdevinos each had two assists.
WATERFORD 6, TURLOCK CHRISTIAN 1, at Turlock -- Juan Gutierrez scored two goals as the Wildcats (16-0-4, 9-0-2 SL) clinched a berth in the Division VI section playoffs by beating the Eagles (1-9-1 SL). Diego Espinosa scored 40 seconds into the match.
MARIPOSA 14, DENAIR 0, at Denair -- Jason Buskeness had five goals and two assists to lead the Grizzlies (17-2-3, 8-1-2 SL) over the Coyotes (1-10 SL). Daniel Buskeness, Kolby Southwood and Jonathan Gonzalez each scored two goals. Denair goaltender Garrett Bordenare had 20 saves.
DELHI 3, LE GRAND 2, at Delhi -- Carlos Meza scored with two minutes left to give the Hawks (5-5-1 SL) a win over the Bulldogs (5-4-2). Meza took a cross from forward German Cruz and one-touched the ball past the goalie. Delhi goaltender Edgar Sanchez made 12 saves. Alejandro Rojas scored both goals for Le Grand.
Bee staff writer Scott Oxarart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.