The game was everything it wasn’t supposed to be. Dramatic. Entertaining. Intense.
Thursday’s Foothill League finale at Valencia High, featuring two teams with seemingly nothing to play for, started with two Hart goals and ended in a 2-2 tie after Valencia’s one-minute scoring frenzy.
Rivalry, apparently, trumps relevance.
“Whenever you play Hart, you want to play your best,” said Valencia senior Sean Kim, “and they definitely played their best against us.”
The Vikings (16-2-4 overall, 9-0-1 in Foothill) wrapped up a second straight Foothill League title outright Tuesday, so coach Tony Scalercio started all nine of his seniors, including his backup goalkeeper, on senior night.
By the game’s 5 p.m. start, Hart (16-5-4, 6-2-2) too couldn’t improve its playoff seeding out of the Foothill League.
Saugus’ win over Canyon earlier in the day locked the Indians’ into the third seed.
Still, there was pride.
“When there’s a competition,” said Hart coach Adonay Jovel, “whether you’re playing ping pong or foosball, you play for pride. You play for what you believe in.”
Jaden Nguyen gave Hart reason to believe in the 33rd minute. The junior forward shot the ball off a charging Valencia keeper and into the net.
It meant the Vikings trailed by one at half for the second time in three games, and things got worse for Valencia before they got better.
Hart’s Soghomonian Krikor scored one minute into the second half, shooting the ball high into the net and positioning the Indians to beat Valencia in the league final for the second straight year.
Then Valencia answered.
Viking Josh Ferguson stole the ball off a Hart player deep in the Indians’ defensive third in the 52nd minute. He then laid the ball off to Evan Ross, who finished the play to cut the deficit to 2-1.
One minute later, Kim bent the ball around Hart defenders and into the right corner of the net.
“I saw the keeper leaning one way toward the near post,” Kim said, “and I saw that little crease on the outside post, so I just tried to put it there so he couldn’t get to it.”
Jovel said the back-to-back goals were a microcosm of what’s hampered the Indians this season.
“We’re young and we lose focus in very small increments,” Jovel said. “They took advantage of two little mistakes we made, and then we tied.”
Hart defender Dillon Vega echoed his coach.
“I think that’s really what’s been hitting us hard in league: not being able to completely focus until that last minute of the game,” said Vega, who headed a ball away from Hart’s goal line to save a would-be goal in the first half.
The CIF-Southern Section will release its boys soccer brackets on Monday morning. Hart is in Division 4. Valencia is in Division 3.
Saugus 4, Canyon 0
James Johnson scored three goals for the Centurions (13-6-4, 7-2-1), who wrapped up the second playoff seed out of the Foothill League with the win. Canyon finishes the year 0-17-5 overall and 0-9-1 in league. Johnson has 24 goals on the season.
West Ranch 2, Golden Valley 0
Emilio Santamaria and Bradley Nichols scored for the Wildcats (6-8-1, 4-6). Golden Valley finishes the year 2-15-3, 1-8-1.