On Hart’s senior night, Hart and Saugus boys soccer faced off in their final regular season game of the year at Hart with both teams vying for a potential Foothill League title on Thursday.
Scoring on a free kick just before the halftime whistle, Hart shut out Saugus 1-0 to win at least a share of the Foothill League title, going undefeated in league play for the second straight year.
“It’s a process,” said Hart coach Adonay Jovel. “We have been working very hard not just with the varsity, but with the freshman guys so the guys that come from freshman to JV, from JV to varsity, they are a little prepared for this. It means a lot because we put a lot of work into developing the younger guys to come in here and deliver.”
Throughout the first half, Hart (13-6-5 overall, 6-0-4 in Foothill League) pushed players ups up the left flank as Jose Fuentes and Gerardo Robledo tried to find the open man, making runs into Saugus territory.
Centurion defenders Roger Sandino and Eric Johnson did a good job of clearing loose balls and shutting down wave after wave of the attack.
In the 19th minute, the Indians had an opportunity to break the game open with a cross down the left flank into the middle of the penalty box. A sprinting Joseph Ochoa took a one-timer, but his shot went just wide of the goal.
Saugus (11-6-4, 5-3-2) built a counter-attack down the left side of the pitch with Aidan Sutherland leading the charge. At the corner of the 18-yard box, Sutherland took a quick shot that was headed for the top left corner of the goal, but hit the crossbar for a goal kick.
With four minutes left in the first half, Ochoa stole a ball in Saugus territory and unleashed a shot that just went wide of the net once again.
After a Saugus foul with under two minutes remaining, the Indians’ Ochoa, Timothy Kim and Darwin Herrera converged from about 30 yards out as to who would take the free kick.
As the whistle sounded, Ochoa ran over the ball, faking like he was going to take the shot and Kim followed right behind him with a thunderous right-footer. He put the ball right down the middle past the outstretched hands of Saugus goalkeeper Ryan White to light up the scoreboard and head into halftime with a 1-0 lead.
“It’s the last game of the season and everything was on the line,” Kim said. “If we lose, we lose league. If we win, we win league so I just had to step up.”
Knowing what was on the line with 40 minutes left, the Centurions pushed numbers up with Nathan St. Amand and Frank Ornelas controlling and winning balls in the middle of the pitch.
Still battling the flu, Saugus forward Dionicio Flores provided support on the left flank, trying to find Dylan Sullivan and Sutherland in open space on a cross in the 62nd minute of the game, but nothing came of the opportunity.
Five minutes later, Flores had another scoring opportunity as he fired a shot that flew past Hart goalkeeper Kevin Perez, but hit the post and bounced out of bounds.
With under 10 minutes remaining in the game and its chances of securing a title slipping away, Saugus ramped up their attack and almost scored as Sullivan unleashed a line drive off a corner kick, but Perez was able to drop to the ground and make the save for the Indians.
“I’m just really made the save so we didn’t concede any goals,” Perez said. “I’m just excited. Two Foothill League titles in a row, it’s just really exciting.”
Preserving the shutout as the final whistle blew, the Indians clinched at least a share of the Foothill League title, depending on the result between Canyon and Valencia. Saugus settles for a third-place finish in league.
Both Hart and Saugus are headed to the playoffs and will find out who they play on Saturday morning.
“I feel like we had significantly more chances in the second half. It just wasn’t falling for us. But the best thing about playing a team like Hart is that this is the best experience that is most similar to what the playoffs are going to be like.
“To have this be our final game before heading off to playoffs is huge. Obviously, we were looking for the win, but we fought all the way until the very end.”
Golden Valley 5, West Ranch 1
Golden Valley (5-11-3, 2-8) picked up its second league win of the season on Senior Night as five different players scored in the final game of the year.
Seniors Jonathan Saavedra, Christian Alvarez and Cobi Villalba all netted a goal in their final game in a Grizzlies jersey while Juan Mendez and Cesar Perez accounted for the other two.
Golden Valley finishes the season in fifth place in the Foothill League. West Ranch (3-10-2, 1-8-1) finishes in sixth.