DOWNEY — Saugus High fans waited nervously for more magic.
The Centurions defense waited for a high-arcing pass to fall, while a Bellflower striker flew to the ball and headed it into the net.
Bellflower’s boisterous crowd waited for official word of who had scored that game-sealing goal in the 73rd minute.
Then the chant began.
PHOTOS: Saugus falls to Bellflower in CIF final
“Axel, Axel, Axel,” the red-clad cheering section yelled.
Axel Lemus scored two goals Friday night to drop Saugus to a 2-0 loss in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 championship at Warren High in Downey, leaving the Santa Clarita Valley waiting for its first Southern Section boys soccer title.
“It’s pretty bitter,” said Saugus goalie Matt Sayers, who made four saves. “It’s a bitter pill to swallow.”
Lemus’ second goal of the night ruled out another fantastic finish for the Centurions (17-7-4), who reached the final by winning their quarterfinal and semifinal games in double overtime.
Bellflower (17-8-1), which beat Hart in the 2015 D4 final, managed a few more shots, but the game was competitive.
Scoreless at halftime, Lemus put the Buccaneers ahead in the 49th minute.
On the sequence, Bellflower standout Christian Pinzon sent a through ball to Miguel Garcia, who crossed it to Lemus deep in Saugus’ 18-yard box.
The second goal came on a longer pass, but again found the net because Lemus was in the right spot at the right time.
“It was one of those unfortunate things where we were pushing numbers forward and we got caught off guard,” said Saugus assistant coach Joe Madick, who addressed reporters because head coach Seth Groller lost his voice during the game.
There was a lot to get excited about. Saugus took seven shots before half, some particularly tantalizing.
Sebastian Wueste beat two defenders at one point and passed ahead to Saugus forward Josh De Leon, who did a 180 and sent a shot over the net.
At another point, James Johnson made an athletic leap and kick, one-timing the ball just over the goal.
“We had our opportunities,” Johnson said. “We wanted that goal. Obviously, we didn’t get it. But we were pushing forward. We were pushing hard.”
Bellflower had eight shots in the first half. But the Centurions defense contained Pinzon, a Cal State Fullerton-bound senior who’d scored 30 goals entering the night. Still, he looked dangerous every time he touched the ball, showing excellent ball control and quickness. So too did Garcia.
In the end, though, it was Axel Lemus who brought the gears of Saugus’ historic playoff run to a grinding halt.
“We couldn’t be more proud of what they have accomplished,” Madick said, “to be the first team in program history to get to this game.”
Saugus expects to play in a CIF SoCal Regional tournament next week. Brackets will be released Sunday evening. The tournament starts Tuesday.