Trailing 1-0 with less than a minute left in regulation, the Cerritos College men's soccer team got the goal they were looking for from their most likely source. Sophomore Armando Ibarra, Jr. (Downey HS) chipped a loose ball into the back of the net to draw the Falcons even against Norco College in the first round of the Southern California Regional Playoffs. The goal extended the game to overtime, where Cerritos (16-4-1), the #2-seed added a pair of goals to their total and came away with a 3-2 win over the #15-seeded Mustangs.
The win by Cerritos advances them to the second round, where they will host Oxnard College at 2:00 p.m. next Tuesday. The #7-seeded Condors are one of four teams to beat the Falcons this season (2-1 on September 17), while the team has exacted revenge on two of the other teams. A win over the Condors will move the team one step closer to the CCCAA State Championships.
"In all of our championship runs, the first game has always been the toughest" said head coach Benny Artiaga, who has coached the Falcons to all four of their CCCAA state championships. "I'm proud of our guys for surviving, but at the same time, we need to get better about our decisions. I give (Norco head coach) Drew Rea and Norco all the credit in the world. They devised a great game plan and the early goal gave them confidence."
That goal in question came as a result of a rare defensive miscue. Looking to clear the ball out of danger, defender Ernesto Vergara (Salesian HS) saw his clearing attempt hit Cody Paul Bell in the chest. After controlling the ball, Bell was able to fire a shot over the outstretched hands of freshman goalkeeper Alex Ledesma (Bellflower HS).
Throughout the game, Cerritos was forcing Norco to get back on defense, as they looked to wear down their opponent. As time started to tick away, the play of the Falcons became more intense, although they never panicked. Knowing they had the ability to draw upon numerous players for a goal, they worked all side of the field looking for a hole in the Norco defense. On this occasion, freshman Pablo Caparelli (Real Salt Lake Academy, UT HS) was able to bring the ball into the 18-yard box and got off a shot that was deflected, but stopped by Mustang goalkeeper David Calva. The ball remained loose, and the skilled foot of Ibarra wa there to put away his 18th goal of the season, much to the exultation of Artiaga and the Falcons.
Not long after the goal, the final whistle for regulation was blown, and the first thing out of the mouth of Artiaga was, "Keep attacking them! They can't keep up with us."
Neither team was able to score in the first 15-minute overtime period, although Norco has a great opportunity, but Josue Jimenez hit the crossbar on an open header.
But just two minutes into the second overtime, the Falcons struck, as Chris Corona (Pioneer HS) was in the right spot at the right time. On the play, Alex Rodriguez (Gertz Ressler HS) pushed the ball toward the Norco net and fed the ball to Antonio Negrete (St. John Bosco HS). Sitting in front of the net, Corona found the ball at his feet and he quickly finished the play and gave the Falcons a 2-1 lead. It appeared as though Cerritos salted the game away in the 113th minute when they made it 3-1.
Going in on a two-on-one, Caparelli passed the ball to Arnold Castillo (Bell Gardens HS), who drew the attention of Calva. He smartly passed the ball back to Caparelli, who fired home what would turn out to be the game-winning goal. The Mustangs were awarded a penalty kick in the 120th minute and Carlos Lira was able to beat Ledesma to make the final, 3-2.
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