Boys’ soccer wins first ever CIF section title and is moving forward with SoCal regionals.
By Timithie NORMAN
After an undefeated season and four victorious CIF playoff games, three of which went into overtime or penalty kicks, the Crescenta Valley boys’ soccer team defeated rival and reigning CIF Southern Section Division IV champion El Rancho to take the title for the first time in school history.
After winning on Friday, the Falcons advanced to the Division 1 regional playoffs in Clovis. On Tuesday, Crescenta Valley defeated Buchanan High 1-0 thanks to a first-half goal from Alex Berger. The team, seeded fifth out of the eight contenders, advances to round two with a game against top-seeded Milikan High in Long Beach today. Kickoff is at 4 p.m.
The victory against El Rancho was particularly sweet as the Falcons lost to the Dons last year in the playoffs. The match was held at Warren High School in Downey and the win was largely due to an amazing defensive effort from Matthew Bracht, Tony Royer, Brian Ju and Matt Schmutzer that stifled any chance the Dons had of putting the ball in the net.
“El Rancho is a great team,” Head Coach Grant Clark said. “To go up against a team of that caliber you have to have a great defensive group, and I felt like we had that group.”
Crescenta Valley was strong out of the gate, beating the Dons to the ball and maintaining possession with ball control and crisp passing. Their first shot came just three minutes into the game, beginning an offensive effort that had the Falcons claiming a 2-0 lead before the half.
Senior midfielder Berger blasted a shot from 40 yards out, bouncing off the crossbar and down to the field before being kicked out by an El Rancho defender. The lineman called the score and the Crescenta Valley cheering section erupted with the lead in the 29th minute.
“I was told to take shots, to test the keeper and I did,” Berger said. “I had two shots before that that went to the keep, and the third one went in.”
Just four minutes later, Erick Trejo threw the ball in parallel to the goal line where it grazed off the foot of Eric Keshishian, propelling the Falcons to a solid 2-0 lead at the half.
After the break the Falcons maintained a rock-solid defense despite El Rancho’s repeated attacks. Falcon goalkeeper Nick Ruiz made five saves, including two point-blank. CV played carefully, spending plenty of time passing at midfield, but senior Pavle Atanackovic would make his team’s victory complete with just five minutes on the clock.
He took a pass from midfield and beat two defenders before blasting a shot past El Rancho’s David Lopez low and to the left.
“It was the icing on the cake,” he said. “I saw the guy on me and there was no one behind me so I took the space.”
The shutout win brought the Falcons’ season record to 20-0-7 and the first section championship in the boys’ soccer program’s history. El Rancho fans were surprised when the Falcons took the lead and downright angry when the final scoreboard showed the 3-0 loss.
“I honestly did not think we could shut them out, but I thought we could beat them,” Clark said. “From the time they got dressed at school everybody had one focus and it was getting work done. It was just spectacular.”
Clark led the team to victory in his first year as varsity coach with the aid of assistant coach Robert Parada.
“It’s an honor,” Clark said. “It’s a great feeling to be in this spot – to fight over who gets to carry the plaque home.”