Division 2 championship at Mission Viejo
Claremont 2, vs. Capistrano Valley 1, sudden death overtime
By Fred J. Robledo, staff writer
Baldwin Park’s sweet moment finally arrived.
Not long after Baldwin Park boys soccer coach Ricardo Mira took the championship plaque and raised it following the Braves’ 1-0 win over Carpinteria in the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 championship at Warren high school in Downey on Saturday, he turned and stared at Eagles players picking themselves off the turf – a surreal appreciation of what they just accomplished, and how unlikely it was. (to continue click thread)
Note: For those El Rancho fans, El Rancho beat Oak Hills 4-2.
That was Baldwdin Park’s fate in 2009, losing the divisional title to power Salesian 2-1 in sudden death overtime — the same Salesian that knocked the Braves from the semifinals in 2010, and with it what Mira figured would be their last opportunity at a deep playoff run with every starter graduating except senior forward Christian Garcia.
“I understand how Carpinteria feels,” Mira said. “I was there, I know how terrible that feeling is.”
Then he turned to his right, looking on in almost disbelief as his team lined up for their championship portrait.
“Now I know what it feels like to win,” Mira said. “It’s emotional obviously, there’s some relief, but most of all I’m just so happy for these players because nobody gave them a chance, even their own coach doubted them at times. But I’ll tell you what, this is what happens when you persevere and you keep fighting, good things happen, and it couldn’t of happened to a better group.”
The Braves (20-3-2) were almost headed to sudden death for the second time in three years when Jaime Reyes’ shot deflected off an Eagles defender and rolled straight in front of Andres Gonzalez, who burst past a defender grabbing on his jersey trying to slow him down entering the penalty area.
Gonzalez broke free, then rifled home the game-winner in the 70th minute that not only gave the Braves their first soccer title, but the first team championship since the football team won a divisional title in 1991.
“To do this in the last game of your senior year in the (CIF) final is unbelievable,” Gonzalez said. “When I saw the ball drop in front of me I saw an opening and took it. They (defender) were grabbing on me but I just kept going and got off a good shot.
“I can’t believe it really. We’ve been through our heartbreak, but we committed ourselves, we worked hard and started really believing in the playoffs.”
It was a Braves team that advanced in the second round with a 4-3 sudden-death overtime victory over Lakeside after trailing 3-1 with 10 minutes to play.
And a team that was outplayed for the most part in the quarterfinals and semifinals, but still found its way past Los Amigos (1-0) and Animo Leadership (2-1 in sudden death), respectively.
“The way we came back against (Lakeside) set it all off,” Mira said. “We were getting dominated by Animo in the second half and still won that game.
“Sometimes it works out that way. (That’s soccer), you never know when it’s going to be your time. We had great teams the past two years, but it wasn’t our time yet.”
Even though he didn’t score, Garcia, the lone returner who has accounted for a team-leading 16 goals, had several chances and had a big impact in the outcome.
“This team has a lot of heart, that’s what it was,” Garcia explained. “For this to come my senior year, I couldn’t of dreamed of a better ending.
“It doesn’t erase the (previous) two years, but it feels like all the hard work finally paid off.”
Carpinteria, which finishes 20-4-3, had the most dangerous player on the field in John Requejo, Jr., a US. National team U-15 pool player. He nearly put Carpinteria up in the 18th minute, but his header was smothered by Braves goalkeeper Dayker Villalobos, who came up big throughout the afternoon.
Requejo kept the pressure on, breaking free up the left side in the 35th minute, missing a great opportunity sending his shot wide.
Baldwin Park’s Chris Rodriguez had a chance in the final minute of the opening half, a loose ball finding its way toward him from ten yards, but his shot ricocheted off a defender and out of play.
By winning the Division 5 title, Baldwin Park earns an invitation to the Southern California Division I Regional playoffs, which start on Monday. The pairings are announced today on cifstate.org.