FONTANA ⎯ Game officials called out six minutes were left after a pair of Spartan boys’ soccer sides collided in a late-game scuffle when San Gorgonio took on Jurupa Hills High School back on Jan. 28.
Though it concluded with a 3-2 Jurupa Hills triumph -- virtually knocking San G’s CIF Division 5 playoff hopes into disarray -- the visitors not only came close to closing a three-goal deficit, but San G nearly pulled out a draw.
“It was a big uphill climb back,” said San G veteran coach Adrian Villalobos.
They nearly reached that summit.
In the latter stages of those highly-energetic six minutes, San G’s Spartans took aim on four -- count ’em four -- corner kicks to try and salvage that match-tying goal. Incredibly, they all came within a one-minute span.
“Plus we had a couple throw-ins,” said Villalobos, grateful for his team’s strong second half effort that included Dillon Caldwell’s goal, plus a penalty kick from Omar Pinedo.
Villalobos, whose 12-6-4 San G team fell to 3-5-1 in San Andreas League play, watched his side drop to fifth place. Third place had been on the line in this all-Spartans clash.
“Maybe,” said injured Jurupa Valley midfielder Raymond Fernandez, “second place … depending on the other games.”
Fat chance: First place Rialto Eisenhower (11-2-6, 5-0-3) beat Rim of the World while second place Rialto (10-4-4, 4-2-2) took care of fourth Arroyo Valley.
Jurupa Hills (7-6-3, 4-3-1) held onto third place, a spot San G was hoping to claim with a road win.
“Anybody can beat anybody this year in this league,” said Villalobos, a claim he could’ve also made in previous seasons. “We lost four games (in SAL), three of them by one (goal).”
Add a fourth one-goal setback after this outcome.
Not only did San G get awarded those four corners in the late going, Villalobos could’ve pointed to a rash of other semi-serious attacks.
Pineda had one, Bartolo Benitez had another, with Adrian Serra and Caldwell adding attacks on Jurupa Hills’ goalkeeper Alberto Gomez (8 saves).
The host Spartans scored three goals in a span three first-half minutes -- Gabriel Jacobo in the 34th, Jorge Hernandez in the 36th, and Alexis Garcia in the 37th minute.
Take away that three-minute surge in the 80-minute game, it seemed Villalobos’ defensive alignment ⎯ backed by goalkeeper Marcelino De Leon, fronted by a fullback line of Angel Casillas, Jared Reyes, Marlon Castro and Ruben Ryes ⎯ could stop Jurupa Hills.
“I knew we weren’t dead,” said Villalobos. “All year long, they’ve fought back. This is a special group of kids.”
Speaking of fighting back, a scuffle erupted during a late-game rally.
Two things were taking place.
One, San G was emotionally-charged for a match-tying goal against the home team Spartans.
Two, Jurupa Hills was emotionally-charged to stop the visiting Spartans.
There were at least five yellow cards but, apparently, none awarded after the scuffle. A curious site, however, was watching post-game behavior. Both teams embraced the other, offering handshakes and friendshipping despite this highly-charged duel.
Villalobos called his team back to the bench afterward, halting their disappointing walk to the team bus.
“You should be proud of your effort in the second half,” he told them. “You showed character.”
Two games remain on San G’s schedule, Villalobos believing they were good enough to beat Eisenhower and Rialto.
The real bone-crusher this season was a pair of one-goal losses to fourth place Arroyo Valley.
“It’s why this was such a huge game,” said Villalobos, noting that fifth place in a Division 5 field of 32 playoff teams doesn’t mix well for San G’s playoff hopes.
“If we’d have won this game today,” he said, “we’d have still had a shot at first place.”
BOYS PREP SOCCER
(Records as of Feb. 2)
Aquinas (14-4-3, 8-1-3) ⎯ It was a Friday night in Temecula for the Ambassador League-leading Falcons, taking on third place Linfield Christian. A win could lift the Lions into a tie for first place.
There was a questionable call in the penalty box -- from Aquinas’ perspective, at least ⎯ that led to a PK shot that landed for a 1-0 lead, eventually scoring again for two-goal lead.
This week’s Athlete of the Week (Southern California News Group, Aquinas’ Santiago Merlos, made it 2-1.
An Aquinas free kick, led to a header that cleared the cross bar.
Early second half play, with Aquinas winning the war on shots, Merlos missed from the side. Aquinas shooters kept a pair of Lions’ goalkeepers on alert, combining on 12 saves.
Side note: CIF-Southern Section polls had 2017 division champion Aquinas and second place Ontario Christian ranked 7-8 in Division 6. Linfield Christian was ranked second in Division 7.
Heading into Friday’s matches, the teams were a combined 24-3-6.
Citrus Valley (7-7-3, 2-4-2) ⎯ A win over second place Rialto Carter last week would have pulled Citrus Valley closer to a Division 5 playoff position, though the Blackhawks would’ve still entered this week in fourth place.
Due mainly to four losses and a draw over its previous five matches, Citrus Valley was slowly sinking. They pulled out a 0-0 draw against Carter.