Boys’ soccer rallies to high-scoring draw against Hillsdale


Theo Au-Yeung

Sophomore winger Kylan Dean receives pass from senior winger Calvin Wagner late in the second half.

Theo Au-Yeung, Staff Reporter

Thrilling endings are becoming quite the trend for boys’ varsity soccer. 

Following a dramatic last-minute win over Woodside High School on Friday, Jan. 20, Burlingame entertained yet again on Jan. 25, nearly pulling off a miraculous comeback victory in a 3-3 draw against Hillsdale High School. 

It was a slow and sleepy start for the Panthers, who lacked drive in the opening few minutes and passed the ball slowly in the backfield. The pace of the game eventually picked up as the Panthers changed tactics and swarmed the Hillsdale midfield. 

However, things fell apart 19 minutes into the game, when a turnover and sloppy positioning by the Panthers led to Hillsdale’s first goal. One minute later, another turnover led to a quick second goal for the Knights. 

Hillsdale’s blitz came as a shock to the Panthers, who entered Wednesday night in second place in the PAL Bay, and were facing a Hillsdale team that sat at the bottom of the standings with an 0-4 record. 

“We definitely came into this game overconfident,” senior right back Lleyton Yang said. “We’ve been able to handle some of the top teams in this league, so we definitely took Hillsdale a little too lightly.” 

Even with a 2-0 lead, the Knights stayed aggressive, gunning for their third goal. There were a few outbursts into Burlingame’s back field that the Panthers’ defense was just able to fend off. 

“We just weren’t sharp at all, just not 100% focused,” head coach Anthony Dimech said. “I think overconfidence definitely factored into that, nobody’s good enough to just show up and win regardless of the opponent. We’ve just got to make sure we’re playing hard and focusing at all times.” 

Despite the two goals conceded, Burlingame controlled and moved the ball fairly well. Hillsdale had just two offensive chances in the first half — the problem was that both chances turned into goals. 

As the second half kicked off, Burlingame rediscovered their energy, asserting their dominance early and often. 

“I switched to a more attacking formation, which left us a bit exposed in the defense but I was pushing for a win and we had to score early. I wanted to outnumber them up top,” Dimech said. 

The adjustment worked immediately. Five minutes into the second half, sophomore winger Kylan Dean scored from the back post to put the Panthers back within one goal.

But Burlingame soon returned to square one: a through ball sent a Hillsdale attacker on goal against an exposed Panther defense, letting the Knights regain a two-goal lead. 

Still, Burlingame’s approach and control over the game did not change. They continued to dominate in possession, consistently moving the ball to attacking areas and creating chances. Even when the Panthers lost the ball, they managed to win it back almost immediately. 

Senior midfielder Alex Kelly makes a pass back towards the goal with pressure on his shoulder. (Theo Au-Yeung)

The Panthers responded once again to cut Hillsdale’s advantage back down to one goal. A cross from senior center back Alex Au in the 60th minute flew through the air untouched by anyone and rolled into the back of the net. 

Just minutes later, a great run from junior attacking midfielder Altai Ordubadi near the 18-yard box in Hillsdale’s territory was stopped short by a foul, giving the Panthers a free kick in a dangerous area. A mishit clearance following the shot led to the equalizing goal by junior center back Hank Lane. 

The Panthers had finally evened the score, and their confidence was palpable: They had all the momentum, all the control and all the talent they needed to pull off a great comeback win. 

And they were so, so close. The Panthers pushed and pushed for the win, won the ball again and again high up the pitch, whipped in dangerous crosses, played in long balls to the strikers and found good shots. But ultimately, Hillsdale’s defense stood its ground, and the game ended in a draw.

“It’s unfortunate, you know, we scored three goals in the second half, which we haven’t done in a long time,” Dimech said. “We had so many chances, could have easily had five or six goals, but it’s tough that we couldn’t get that last one. It was good to see the guys bounce back and wake up, but ultimately, we really only came to play for one half.” 

It’s not a win, but the Panthers will certainly take a draw after how the first half played out. Burlingame’s third draw in league play keeps them at No. 2 in the PAL Bay standings and just two points behind Aragon, who they face in a high-stakes away matchup on Friday, Jan. 27. 

The Panthers drew against Aragon in their last matchup on Jan. 11, and will be looking to change that outcome this time around. A win will give Burlingame the top spot in the PAL Bay standings. 

“We’ve got to come out of the gates with an intense mindset and dictate how the game is played,” senior striker Sean O’Grady said. “We have to show Aragon that we’re here to play. I think we’ve been playing well, moving the ball well, just need to improve in the attacking third and take advantage of opportunities and get on them early.”