After seven weeks of intense competition, the dust has settled and a victor has emerged; San Clemente High School, facing fierce competition in the form of Carlsbad High, was crowned the 1st ever NSL High School Cup Champion in the early hours of Saturday, June 10, 2006.
Barely edging the Carlsbad Lancers 69.5 to 69, the San Clemente Tritons, led by team captain and event MVP, Tanner Gudauskas, claimed the title by posting a game-high 20.5 points in the fourth quarter. Entering the final quarter with a two point deficit, the Tritons lit Huntington's chest high to slightly overhead surf ablaze to take the crown.
After relatively lackluster second and third quarters, the Tritons entered the water focused and poised for victory. Gudauskas jump-started the rally by posting an eight on his opening wave. The wave would eventually seal both his team's victory as well as his status as event MVP. Gudauskas' aggressive surfing catalyzed his teammates to follow suit as each dropped into set waves within seconds of his ride. Gudauskas commented, "It just looked like a good wave and my coaches told me to go for it and push for bigger waves, so I just tried to do that. It was sick because right when I kicked out sets started rolling in and the team was pushing."
The energy seemed contagious for Carlsbad as well. The Lancers responded with an 18 point rally in the bottom of the fourth quarter. In the quarter's waning minutes, Charlie Stevens cinched a six point left to boost the Lancers within half a point of the lead, but time ran out on Carlsbad's surge. Lancers' head coach Denny Cooper was able put the event in perspective despite the unfavorable outcome, commenting, "San Clemente has been in the upper echelon of surfing for the past three years, so I think we gained a lot of respect out there today, and the environment is great. We've got about 1000 people out here, and it came down to the last half point – you can't beat this environment. I don't even think a football game beats this."
Gabe Garcia, a Carlsbad sophomore who registered two of the competition's top waves, echoed a similar attitude, "I think the contest went well because we came into the final as prepared as possible and just tried to surf our best. San Clemente is a great team and hopefully we'll see them back in the finals next year." Garcia's hope just might come to fruition. Both teams have a core group of returning surfers, and although each of the other eight schools in the NSL seeks to prove otherwise – this could be the start of a historic surfing rivalry.
Carlsbad wins the coin toss and elects to surf 2nd.
Jeff Lukasic had the standout wave of the heat, dropping in on a big left with two aggressive turns – scoring a five on his first wave. A flurry of overhead set waves rolled in during the final minutes of the quarter, but the Tritons were out of position and unable to capitalize. Lukasic and company combined for a 15 point first quarter.
Eager to overtake San Clemente, team captain, Brent Reilly, scored a six on his first wave. Teammate Gabe Garcia hit four turns on a big left to add a 6.5 to the Lancer's arsenal, allowing Carlsbad to take a 3.5 point lead heading in to Quarter #2.
San Clemente – 15
Carlsbad – 18.5
The Tritons registered some solid scores from top to bottom turning in an 18.5 point quarter.
Carlsbad; however, gave a less inspired performance scoring only 14 points, surrendering their lead to San Clemente.
San Clemente – 33.5
Carlsbad – 32.5
Excited to extend their lead, Jeff Lukasic and company hit some forceful turns to score a total of 15.5 points.
Carlsbad's Garcia answered back by being the first competitor to surf a wave to the inside – doing the Huntington hop for 20 yards before smacking the lip of the shorebreak. Minutes later, Brent Riley took off on a big left, and was awarded a seven from the judges – the highest scoring wave at that point in the game. His wave put the Lancers back in the lead with 51 points.
San Clemente – 49
Carlsbad – 51
Things got interesting as the Cup drew to a close. Gudauskas capitalized on a huge left, releasing his tail several times on the wave before kicking out on the shore. The rest of the Tritons performed well in the clutch, catching several set waves and turning in a 20.5 point quarter.
Carlsbad responded with a solid team effort. Charlie Stevens and Duran Barr posted big scores in the closing seconds of quarter, but Carlsbad fell half a point short.
San Clemente – 69.5
Carlsbad – 69