COSTA MESA — The moment that Marco Argueta had envisioned for years finally became reality Sunday afternoon at the Daily Pilot Cup.
Argueta, the Paularino Elementary liaison, made sure the school's Principal Stacy de Boom-Howard didn't miss the photo opportunity.
"Get your iPhone ready," Argueta told de Boom-Howard in the waning seconds of the boys' fifth- and sixth-grade silver division championship match at Jack Hammett Sports Complex.
Paularino made history, winning its first-ever title at the tournament. Danny Molina scored twice, Miguel Ramirez and Samee Dokovic added goals and the Panthers blanked Harbor View, 4-0.
"They just added sixth grade [at Paularino] last year, so we didn't have an older team before," Argueta said. "This is a pretty phenomenal story. You have to build the program from scratch ... Now we've got some parents and the administration involved.
"It feels great and it's incredible. All of the time it's taken to build the program, it's paid off now. Five or six years ago, we had volunteers from Costa Mesa High School [as coaches], juniors and seniors. Now, we've kept the program running and we get a first place."
De Boom-Howard said Paularino had five teams in this year's tournament, the most in the school's history. A few years ago Paularino was a kindergarten through third-grade school, and had just one team in the Pilot Cup.
"These boys worked extremely hard," said de Boom-Howard, adding that she checked out Paularino teams playing on the final three days of the tournament. "The dedication of the boys and the parents made a huge difference. I'm proud of their sportsmanship, also. They're a really good group of kids."
Molina, a Paularino fifth-grader, started the scoring in the 18th minute. The Panthers took the 1-0 lead into halftime before they erupted.
Molina scored again in the 34th minute. It was a rebound goal, after a long free kick from Ramirez clanged off the crossbar. Five minutes later, Molina crossed it from the left to Dokovic, who was able to score into the upper part of the net.
Paularino, coached by Issy Dokovic, overwhelmed Mariners, 6-1, in the semifinals. The Panthers did not stop in the championship match, despite playing with just two substitutes. Ramirez added the last goal, from the outside.
Defenders Eddy Martinez, Han Nguyen, Jonathan Barton and Brian Hernandez helped Paularino preserve the shutout. Goalie Joseph "Jojo" Regalado made a handful of saves.
"I think we did really good and everyone tried their hardest," Regalado said. "This is probably our best season yet, out of all the years."
Min Nguyen, Angel Ariza, Blake Juncker, Joseph Burton and Aalai Morales also helped lead Paularino to the title. It was a dominant run, as the Panthers outscored their five opponents by a combined 27-6. Four goals in the final was actually Paularino's lowest scoring output of the tournament.
"That team was just too big, too strong," Harbor View Coach Damien O'Brien said. "We had a great run in the tournament. We didn't think we were going to go this far. To get all the way to the final is great. We've got seven fifth-graders, so we should be back strong next year."
Harbor View, which edged St. Joachim, 1-0, in the semifinals, was led by goalkeeper Adam Werthmuller. He made a very nice save on a fast-charging Dokovic in the first half.
"The Galaxy are looking at him," O'Brien said. "He saved us in the last couple of games."
O'Brien said he lost his son Luca, one of Harbor View's stronger players, to injury in the first half. Top goal scorers for the team throughout the tournament included Aidan Holmes, Hunter Chamberlain and Nicolas Cernich, with Zane Weaver and Tommy Jensen as standout defenders.
Kieran Hill, Jacob Bass, Liam Murray, Jared Macalisang, Lucas Wood, Morgan Traxler and Jaden German also contributed for the runner-up Harbor View squad.