El Rancho’s unbeaten streak ends in CIF-SS title game

Above: El Rancho goal keeper David Lopez sits alone as Crescenta Valley celebrates winning 3-0 during a CIF-SS Division 4 championship soccer match at Warren High School in Downey. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Keith Birmingham)
By Keith Lair
The El Rancho High School boys soccer team’s stellar season ended with a thud.
Crescenta Valley was able to take advantage of its opportunities and stymie the Dons en route to a 3-0 victory in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 championship game on Friday evening at Warren High.
“It’s amazing,” El Rancho senior Francisco Lara said. “We didn’t expect this. We came out expecting to win, but you never know what happens.”
The loss ended the Dons’ 34-game unbeaten streak (26 this season), and also ended their hopes at winning a second consecutive CIF-SS title.
Now all they can hope for is a potential invitation to the CIF State Southern California regional playoffs.
“You have to give credit to Crescenta Valley,” El Rancho coach Dominic Picon said. “They made the most of the littlest of opportunities. They are a very formidable team.”
Crescenta Valley remains unbeaten at 20-0-7.

We knew we were going to have to beat El Rancho from the beginning of the year,” Falcons goalkeeper Nick Ruiz said. “We just knew we were going to have to take them down. Winning has not set in and I don’t think it will set in for a couple of days. It’s amazing. We expected a hard-fought game, but not the way it ended.”
El Rancho had not lost since a 4-2 setback to Schurr on Dec. 16, 2010. The Dons were 33-0-1 since then going into Friday’s game. The last tie was to Pioneer in Del Rio League play last year.
The Falcons scored two goals within four minutes of the first half and then packed in the defense in the second half.
“There is no way to sugarcoat it,” Picon said. “We got outplayed in the first half. We didn’t come out like we should have. I thought we played valiantly in the second half. I kept thinking that if we got that one goal, the others would come.”
El Rancho was ranked fifth nationally by ESPN and had not been held scoreless since Jan. 28, 2010 in a scoreless tie against Whittier.
Ruiz made sure that would be the result in the second half. With help from defenders Salar Hajimirsadeghi, Tony Royer, Brian Ju and Matt Schmutzer, he had five saves off of nine El Rancho shots in the second half.
“We knew they were going to come out hard in the second half,” Crescenta Valley coach Grant Clark said. “When you’re down 2-0 , it’s a dangerous lead to have. We dropped some people in the midfield to give some extra defenders.
“All playoff long we have been scratching for goals. So to be able to go up two goals was a big pressure off our back because we feel that we can defend with anybody.”
The Dons, who averaged nearly four goals per game this season, had six legitimate shot attempts to score in the second half.
Despite the defensive pressure, Lara, Cristian Roldan, Efrian Velasco and Mauricio Lopez were unable to convert on opportunities. Velasco had an early second-half shot stopped by Ruiz. Lara took a nice pass from Lopez and had a point-blank shot blocked by Ruiz that hit the crossbar and went over the goal. Lopez then just missed on a header off of Miguel Vichis’ corner kick.
“No lying; that team is great,” Lara said. “That first goal we kept our heads up. We said we always come back no matter. But this is my last year. I didn’t expect this.”
The Falcons only took two shot attempts in the second half, scoring on their second, with three minutes remaining to seal the game. Crescenta Valley, the tournament’s third seed, took advantage of a fall by Roberto Hernandez. Alex Berger made a long clearance of the ball out and Pavle Atanackovic got it one-on-one against Hernandez. But the junior slipped almost immediately and Atanackovic, who will play at UC Irvine next season, had a long fastbreak and easy goal against David Lopez, who had to come far out of the net to try and cut off Atanackovic’s angle.
“We thought we had it, but they finished and we couldn’t,” Hernandez said. “If we had one goal, we could have had other opportunities.”
The Falcons have not lost since dropping a playoff game to El Rancho last year.
“I felt like we could score,” Clark said. “When they made a mistake, it was a matter of if we could capitalize on them. El Rancho has been here before, so for us to come in and get the first goal and then the second goal was really big. They just did a fabulous job in the first half and got us a lot of room.”
Berger scored in the 28th minute. He stole the ball and took a 40-yard shot. The ball hit the crossbar and Lopez appeared to make a dramatic save after it bounced off the ground. The referee did not make a call and Lopez lined up the free kick. But the sideline judge ruled the ball bounced over the goal line.
Four minutes later, Berger’s lone corner kick of the half went to Eric Keshishian, who did a backward kick flick to score.
“This is one of those great life experiences,” Picon said. “You can put your heads down, give up and throw in the towel or you can create a legacy for yourself. We threw almost everything we had in the second half. We were so close to scoring. Life is about correcting mistakes. We made some mistakes in the first half and we corrected them in the second half.”

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  • Pistolas ablazing drew blanks. Next year schedule up in preseason. ER had a historic season now let it be… no excuses! SP missed it by one goal 3-0. Now you know why great teams shouldn’t pay attention to any ranking until the season is over. ER kids hold your head up.
    Now time for some spring football and baseball.

  • rick

    Me being a soccer fanatic stayed for the second game. El Rancho looked slow and didn’t have that intensity that I saw against Cathedral. Maybe it was just a match up thing. Don’t know. But Cathedral, I believe had more speed up top and that #8 would have found a way to break up up that defensive Crescenta Valley team. To be honest with you, both teams didn’t play well. Crescenta attacked about four times and scored on three of them. That’s how it goes sometimes.

  • rick

    I am not going to criticize the game plan. I know that Monday morning quarterbacking is easy. But Crescenta had only one attacker. And to be honestly his skill level wasn’t much to speak of. The only thing he had was speed and size. Once you are down by 2 goles you need to move the two defenders up and have two players marking the big #14. That adjustment should have been done right from the beginning of the second half. If you were observing, you would see that Crescenta was playing very defensively. The reason the big guy scored was because of a defensive mistake.

  • rick

    El Rancho’s passes were flat and late. To many give aways. I knew El Rancho didn’t have much speed up top. If you look at the goles that El Rancho scored on Cathedral, you will see that the goles were scored with numbers up top and there fabulous passing. Speed was going to be a problem because Crescenta had size, muscle and speed. You weren’t going to out run them. Crescenta poked and gave El Rancho no breathing room. Your passes have to be harder and faster. I was waiting for a formation change that never came and I was waiting for them to attack with numbers. That’s how I believe El Rancho could have beaten them. They did it at the end. But to late.

  • rick

    I would have liked to see Cathedral play against Crescenta. I think the match up would have been better.
    Not taking anything away from El Rancho. This has been a great run. And maybe it will continue. The players were garcious at the end of the game and thanked there fans. Very classy. You guys are so fortunate to have so much to choose from and real good talent.

  • Silver Lining

    El Rancho will be in the state playoffs, and can use this experience to become even tougher there, possibly winning the state tourney. Don’t be down guys; there’s another playoff still on the table!

  • erdons

    Its been a great soccer season, from pre-season, League championship and a trip to the finals, wow. To think we have a shot at State, incredible. So guys lets reload those pistolas with state bullets. Since you know you have a huge following. I have never seen a high school soccer game with such a large crowd behind them, awesome. LETS GO FOR STATE!……….

  • anony

    When does the state soccer pairings come out?

  • elrancho

    They should come out tomorrow evening, but unfortunately it might be very difficult for us to get in, most of the CIF Southern Section champs have enrollments of 2300+, any school with 2300+ student enrollment goes into the State D1 playofs, the Southern Section only gets 4 teams into each Division… Crescenta Valley is in, Paramount and Millikan will likely win and will also be in the D1 brackets, our only hope is that the rest of the Southern Section champs get put in the D2 brackets and somehow we go in as the 4th team in D1…

  • Dons

    Does anyone know if the La Serna girl won their soccer match today?

  • rick

    Just came back from watching division 3. And Paramount won 2-1 over Channel Islands. And I stayed for the first half of division 1 between Milliken (Long Beach) vs. Ventura and it’s Milliken is completely dominating the game. They were winning at half time 5-1. Milliken scored in the 5th min. in a corner. Then Ventura scored on a free kick 1 min. later. Then milliken scored the rest of the goles from crosses from the right side. No comeback here! You think? On a seperate note. I think El Rancho either forgot to fill out the form or they were confident that thaey would win C.I.F. And automatically qualify. What other explanation is there?

  • rick

    Claremont girls were beating Bishop Amat at half 2-0

  • Anonymous

    @ rick You stated On a seperate note. I think El Rancho either forgot to fill out the form or they were confident that thaey would win C.I.F. And automatically qualify. What other explanation is there?

    Explain what form, and an explanation on what? Im not being facetious I am really curious. For El Rancho to make “State” would be awesome so please clarify.

  • Ranch

    Downey edges La Serna 2-1 for Championship a heart breaker for this team. Keep your heads up the area is proud of you LS.

  • Dons

    Man I was anticipating the LS girls would get it done and bring our DRL a SS CIF Championship.
    Next year girls!…… Wait, what about state?

  • Rick

    I heard a read a comment yesterday evening from someone from the blog. And I started asking questions about who automatically goes to regionals. Today I asked some officials at the div. 1 championships and I still couldn’t get an answer. If I am not mistaken El Rancho might not be invited. Someone today told me that they might not be invited. That would be a shame. The games I saw today, other then Milliken, I believe El Rancho could beat. I am confused as well.

  • Rick

    Maybe I miss understood what they were talking about.

  • etc

    Etcetera: If they (ER) make the state lineup or not this soccer season was implausible, who would have thought with the target on their backs, Dons with this years and combining last years record at 32-0, playing for a back to back CIF championship unbelievable. Crescenta Valley and everyone from D4 knew who they had to beat.

  • Alwaysdon

    Big props to our boys! The future is more than positive with El Ranchos soccer team they are going to improve every year. ER fans wait and see you are going to love it.

  • Say what

    @ rick: (you said I would have liked to see Cathedral play against Crescenta. I think the match up would have been better.).. Cathedral playing CV Falcons (better matchup) that game would of set-up a CIF school scoring record that might never been broken. I believe you know much more about prep soccer then I. But keep it factual even non soccer people can see reality.

  • soccer

    @ rick a team (Phantoms) needs to defeat their opponent to play their next adversary in the playoffs. Its not whom someone wants to see play a certain team but who is next.

    Cathedral loses to El Rancho, so those Phantoms could not go on, right rick nor is there a wish list mechanism with CIF? A team has to win to go on! This D-4 was the best matchup possible.

  • Sports Fan

    La Serna had a lot of chances off corners and free kicks, but unlike its previous rounds, were unable to take advantage of its chances.

    Downey did a very good job of disrupting the Lancers offense by just kicking the ball away and not messing with it. La Serna was better technically and athletically but Downey took advantage of crucial moments and got the W. (And thats what matters). La Serna was by far the more technical and athletic squad (Downey parents told me the same thing after the game).

    The area better be ready next season because La Serna is not going away and could very well be better than this seasons squad. 5 seniors graduate (2 starters) but will return 10 key players, including its top 3 scorers (two of them freshman) and get two very good players back from injury.

    Congrats to all the area teams and players this season. Its been a great season and hopefully it will be another successful one next year.

  • Rick

    Yes El Rancho obviously desreved to play this game. No one is taking that away. It si strictly an observeation from the outside. I saw both games. I just beleive that Cathedral was really hungry. At that game vs. El Rancho, I was rooting for El Rancho to win. You have to see the game without emotion to understand what I mean. I know it’s hard when your team is in it. To be an impartial observer I guess is difficult for some people. Heck, I saw how they capitalized on our mistakes. But my comments after the game were precise and honest. Even though we lost. I gave there game alot of respect. I can’t say the same for there behavior. But that’s another story.

  • Rick

    I am not here to say things that everyone is going to like. We are not in the say nice things about my team or else world. My comments are for those who can appreciate the game without. Bouncing back and forth like some of you do. Sometimes I wonder if all these comments that I read, are from teanagers with out a clue or adults who still think that they are at a pep rally. The thought worries me. Don’t get your feelings hurt If someone has an opinion that doesn’t agree with you. I would like to read more comments in here that are better thought out. Other gossip blogs might better suite your reasoning. Just so you know, I am relaxed emotionless as I write these comments. Maybe you should try to do the same.

  • Rick

    El Rancho is officially out of regionals. And Oak Hills, I believe took there spot. How else can you explain a team that lost in the finals go ahead of El Rancho. Unless C.I.F. when dealing with invites thought that Oak Hills did a better job. How else could it be explained? Because I know El Rancho should have been there before Oak Hills. I mean , they did place 2nd in the C.I.F. championship game.

  • Soccer stud

    Cathedrals #8 should win C.i.f Mvp

  • Rick

    That’s what I’ve been saying. #8 is a smart, great touch, tough and has that it factor. There are very few players that can do what he can. He is what we in the past would call a #10. When he played us (La Puente). I noticed him in the first minutes of the game. I don’t throw compliments like these
    very often, but he is a complete player.

  • Soccer stud

    That’s so true , I was there present at the la puente game and the el rancho game this kid has a future in this game . I couldn’t believe it when I found out this kid was a sophmore as well. But I got to give the coaches and players at cathedral a hand for the season they had unfortunately the lost but I thought they were an amazing team. & I hope that # 8 wins the award he deserves it.