Back-to-back OT wins propel boys’ soccer team to first ever CIF Finals.
By Timithie NORMAN
The Crescenta Valley boys’ soccer team has already claimed the title of Pacific League champions. They have improved to 20-0-6, advancing the team to the CIF Southern Section Division IV championship for the first time in the program’s history. And for the players, parents, spectators, and fellow students, the team will also be remembered as one of the most exciting in Crescenta Valley sports.
After an overtime 3-2 win against Laguna Beach in the first round and narrow 1-0 victory against Diamond Bar in the second round, the Falcons traveled to Salesian High last Thursday in the quarterfinal match.
After a long defensive battle, the Falcons were down 2-1 with just minutes left in the game. Head Coach Grant Clark pulled senior goalkeeper Nick Ruiz and placed him on offense in a final attempt to keep the Falcons in the game. Soon after, the ball deflected from a shot by captain Pavle Atanackovic and Ruiz followed up with the goal that would tie the game, sending it into overtime for the second time in their playoff run.
Just three minutes into overtime play, Falcon Erick Trejo scored off a corner kick to claim the victory and propel the team to the semifinal match for the first time since the program began.
“It has been a lot of fun for me to experience the success that we have in such a short amount of time,” said Clark. “It has truly been a blessing to be around the guys and watch them work so hard.”
On Tuesday, the Falcons made the long drive to Oak Hills High School in Hesperia for the Division IV semifinal. Again, it was Ruiz who made the play to keep the Falcon hopes of a championship alive.
Atanackovic scored on a penalty kick in the 49th minute to put the Falcons up 1-0, but Bulldog Sage Smith soon tied it at 1-1. A full 20 minutes of overtime play passed with no further scoring, warranting a shootout. Ruiz blocked Oak Hill’s second attempt as Atanackovic, Alex Berger, Michael Shahnazarians and finally Salar Hajimirsadeghi made good on all CV’s penalty kicks.
“Salar is always a good player for us. He is a leader on the field,” Clark said. “[Tuesday] he stepped it up a whole new level.”
The Falcons now look to the championship match Friday against No. 1 seeded El Rancho, the same team who eliminated the Falcons from the playoffs last year.
“The boys were explicit in what they wanted. They want to knock out the team that ended their season last year,” said Clark. “We are all looking forward to it. Win or lose, we want our boys to be proud of the season they have put together.”
The CIF Southern Section Division IV championship game is at 5 p.m. Friday at Warren High School in Downey.