The stretch of dominance over St. Francis (15-10) might very well have started late in the first half, as the match saw the Golden Knights come out in controlling nature before it became a back-and-forth affair and then finally settled into San Clemente's game.
Senior standout Eric Verso scored a pair of goals — bringing his total to four in three playoff games this season — giving the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead early on and then a glimmer of hope, cutting the score to its final tally just seconds before the final whistle.
"There's not a lot of quit in them," said Appels of his team, which finished second in the Mission League before its quarterfinal ascent. "They were already celebrating and we put a scare in them."
Indeed, the Tritons and their large gathering of boisterous fans were doing a bit of premature celebrating when the game turned drastically in the Golden Knights' favor.
With just nine minutes left in the match, San Clemente's goalie was given a yellow card for stalling and his infraction was followed by a soft red card when defender DJ Fuller protested the call.
St. Francis set up with a free kick from roughly 15 yards out. Verso's subsequent kick was headed away by San Clemente, resulting in a corner kick that saw Mark Verso head a shot over the net. Another St. Francis header later on, this one by Jake LaPorte off a throw-in play also went just over the net.
The Golden Knights would produce five shots in the final nine minutes, with the Tritons taking just one in that span. The last came when a LaPorte free kick was flicked in by Eric Verso. Just second later, though, the final whistle was blown.
The final surge by St. Francis was hardly reminiscent of the earlier stages of the game, as San Clemente, which has won all three of its playoff games by one goal, outshot its host, 19-13.