STOCKTON -- Carlos Navarette was a marked man the moment he stepped on the turf at Lincoln High, some 30 minutes before Saturday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI soccer title match.
California's No. 2 scorer, the sophomore piled up 55 goals while leading upstart Waterford to a 20-0-5 record, its first league title and its first appearance in a section championship of any kind.
Lindhurst knew all that and more.
"We gave him space in the open field, but when he got near the goal, everyone tightened around him," sweeper David Usvat said. "You can't let the guy with 50-something goals get loose in the box."
The strategy paid off, as the Blazers held Navarette scoreless and rallied for two second-half goals to beat Waterford 3-2.
"Any time the ball came to me in the (penalty box), there was a guy on my back and another in front," said Navarette, whose potential match-tying goal in the final seconds was deflected by a defender.
With the Blazers (17-1-2) leading 3-2, Navarette was able to get hold of the ball on the left side of the box. With no room to maneuver his body, he wasn't able to get much momentum into his attempt.
Even had the shot slipped past the defense, goalie Moises Oseguera was there to scoop it up. Oseguera, as he did much of the match, had come out of the goal in anticipation of Navarette's shot.
Waterford coach Barry Wixom felt Oseguera's aggressiveness was crucial to the outcome.
"He made saves no other goalie would have," said Wixom, whose Wildcats (20-1-5) led 2-1 after Juan Gutierrez's penalty kick with 30 minutes left in the match. "He was outstanding coming to the ball."
Lindhurst had led 1-0 before Gutierrez scored just before halftime.
"You always want to score before the half to carry in the momentum," said Wixom, whose club brought 300 supporters with them. "When we took the lead in the second half, it was working out for us."
The Blazers tied it with 20 minutes left on Jonathan Martinez's 40-yard free kick, which spun away from goalie Victor Gutierrez and into the left corner. They took the lead at 12 minutes when Luis Martinez, in front of the goal for a corner kick, put a header in the right corner.
Martinez had two goals and the assist off the corner kick.
"The only way a team was going to beat us is if they had their own Carlos Navarette," said Wixom, referring to Martinez.
The outcome capped a remarkable season for Waterford.
The arrival of Navarette, a transfer from Hughson, and an offseason commitment by the seniors produced a team that was technically and physically prepared.
"The seniors asked me last November what they had to do to get better," Wixom said. "I told them to condition and practice on their own, and that wasn't something the coaches could make them do."
So the team met regularly at 3 p.m. during the summer, using the summer heat to get them conditioned for the 80-minute matches.
"They've shown what's possible when you make up your mind to do something," Wixom said. "It's been a great experience not only for our kids and our school, but for the town of Waterford."