WHITTIER — With no score by the end of regulation, Saugus boys soccer had its hands full against Santa Fe High School in a CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoff game at Pioneer High School on Thursday.
Saugus was able to turn back every attack that the Chiefs threw at them through the first 80 minutes, but cracked two minutes into overtime and fell 1-0.
“I feel like this was a battle, this is what you expect when I think of a playoff game. This is the intensity, the atmosphere that’s what I kind of expect,” said Saugus head coach Seth Groller. “To have a 0-0 draw at the end of regulation, obviously both teams had opportunities.
The first half was very productive for the Centurions, as they made runs and were able to put pressure on the Chiefs with Frank Ornelas and Dylan Sullivan’s creativity and noses for the ball.
Eight minutes into the game, Ornelas lined up for the game’s first corner kick. Kicking a line-drive to the near post, Alec Fryer rushed in from the middle of the penalty box and got a touch on the ball. The shot was blocked and the Saugus (11-7-4 overall) threat negated.
Fryer had another opportunity a couple possessions later on a throw-in from about 20 yards out. He tried to flick a header back towards Santa Fe’s goal, but their goalkeeper was able to get a hand on it. Luckily, the ball landed at Ornelas feet who took a shot, but a trio of Chiefs defenders converged on the ball to block the shot.
At the second half’s opening whistle, Saugus’ Dionicio Flores sprinted down the left flank and behind the Chiefs’ backline to collect a high-arcing pass to try and attempt a shot on goal. A Santa Fe defender was able to recover and block the shot.
About five minutes into the second half, Ornelas hurled a free kick into the middle of the Santa Fe penalty box. Fryer went up for a header and apparently made contact with Chiefs defender. After staying down for a while, Fryer was subbed out and didn’t return to the game.
“We had Alec go down and I feel like that really affected us,” Groller said. “They have some very fast players and that was very tough because they started hitting the ball and playing more direct balls that got through us for good opportunities, but I feel like the main turning point in the game was when Alec went down.”
Applying the pressure and maintaining possession of the ball a little more, Santa Fe (16-3-4) used the injury to their ability and put more shots on goal.
On a counterattack, Santa Fe’s Emilio Garcia collected a pass at midfield. He dribbled the ball past Saugus defenders and into the edge of the 18-yard box looking like he was going to score, but Saugus’ defenders Justin Taylor and Colton Dolder recovered to stop the scoring opportunity.
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With the game winding down, Saugus had trouble starting, maintaining and building the attack as Santa Fe constantly put pressure in the third half of the pitch.
Then two minutes into overtime, with momentum on its side, Santa Fe capitalized on a Saugus mistake.
Stealing a ball just above midfield, Santa Fe’s Garcia unleashed a screamer from about 30 yards out that flew past Saugus goalkeeper Ryan White to end the game.
“I feel like we had the right guys we just gave the ball away a little bit too much and man, was that just a perfect shot by Emilio,” Groller said. “Our goalkeeper, Ryan White came up huge on a number of occasions, but like I said, this was exactly what I was expecting for playoffs. Unfortunately, we were just on the wrong end of the result on this one.
“I feel like we are competitors and I feel like we are in every game and can compete with just about any team. That’s due to the dedication and hard work that my guys put in, in the offseason. Starting tomorrow we are going to be preparing for next season and that’s how we have always taken it.”