FOLSOM -- There was a method to Adam Finney's madness.
When Finney was named the Mariposa High soccer coach earlier this year, he scheduled some of the toughest teams he could find. Several of them put the hammer to the Grizzlies.
But that strong schedule paid off on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Folsom High School, when his Grizzlies turned a first-half goal by Jason Buskeness into a 1-0 victory over San Juan in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI championship.
It's the first section title for the Mariposa soccer program, which was a section runner-up in 2001.
Finney picked up preseason teams such as section Division I finalist Merced (a 9-0 loss), VOL champion Central Valley (a 6-0 loss) and VOL stalwart Oakdale (a 5-0 loss). The Grizzlies opened the season at 3-5-1.
"We were losing, but we were learning," said Finney, who played in the Mariposa High soccer program and graduated from there in 2000. "We got our butts kicked a few times, but it was all worth it."
Mariposa (15-8-3) finished third in the Southern League, while San Juan (11-6-3) was the third-place team out of the Golden Empire League. Both got hot at the right time.
The Grizzlies tallied the game's lone goal about 25 minutes into the first half.
Sweeper Austin Harms put a free kick to forward Buskeness.
"It was a great free kick, just past their flat four (defense)" Buskeness said. "I headed it onto my feet and saw the goalie coming out."
He one-timed a left-footed shot into the right side of the net. The Grizzlies defense did the rest. Finney called out his outside midfielders, Nick Carlson and Jacob Casner, in particular.
"Those guys chased every ball that came their way," Finney said. "And in three playoff games, they were never subbed out once. And those are guys who didn't get much time last year."
Mariposa got better as the playoffs began.
"We beat Capital Christian in the first round, and I think that may have been our best game of the year," Finney said. "They knew when to turn it on."
That same day, the Grizzlies found out that SL champion Le Grand was knocked out -- by San Juan.
After that, a 2-1 victory over SL runner-up Delhi sent the Grizzlies to the final.
"We knew we had the team to win the championship," Buskeness said. "We came into the playoffs with our heads up, just as focused as could be."
And how did they leave? Buskeness had the answer.
Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.