East’s normally talkative goalie temporarily fell silent.
First-round nerves can do that to Phillip Padilla.
But he found a way to fight back those butterflies and Skyline’s attack in East’s 4-1 victory in a Class 4A boys’ soccer playoff opener Wednesday.
It wasn’t until the 34th minute that Padilla got something to yell about and something to quiet those nerves.
East’s Landen Carlsen and Faysal Abdi were setting up for a free kick from 35 yards out with the score deadlocked at 1-1 after both teams scored on a penalty kick. Both players charged the ball with Abdi going high and Carlsen uncorking a cannon that screamed into the bottom right of the net.
As Abdi, Carlsen and the rest of the Leopards’ frontline slid into a dog pile in the far corner, Padilla let out a howl, kissed his gloves and pumped his fists into the sky.
“Landen’s goal was the difference maker,” Padilla said. “That was the shot that said we were here to play. You could tell those guys were fighting to keep us in this.”
East refused to take its foot off the pedal in a physical match. Erik Hulbert added an insurance goal late in the first half when the freshman spun and kicked the ball into the upper corner of the goal.
“He is such a good player for a freshman,” said Carlsen, who scored twice in the win. “He has the right touch and can explode on the ball.”
The real difference was Padilla’s play between the posts.
He seemed unaffected by the physicality, fighting through a wall of blue jerseys to make crucial stops. He blocked nine shots and booted the ball deep into Eagles territory after stops. He played looser and even had a smile creep onto his face in the closing moments of the game.
“Phil is big in the air, and his big foot really helps,” East coach Rudy Schenk said. “He’s one of those fun-loving goofy guys who can make those blocks.”