Vying for its first league win of the season, the Santa Clarita Christian School boys soccer team faced off against Heritage League rivals Trinity Classical Academy at Central Park on Monday.
It took a while for both squads to find their footing in more than one ways than one, thanks to the cold and aggressive style of play that both teams were exuding. Ultimately, it was the Cardinals that came away with a vital first league win to keep their playoff hopes intact in a 3-2 win.
“It’s wonderful when we play the entire game and we play hard. That’s one thing about these guys that I really enjoy is that they don’t quit,” said SCCS head coach Steven Cooper. “You can’t play the scoreboard, you play the game until the whistle blows at the end and that’s what they did.”
The Knights began the contest as the aggressors with forwards Joey Haro and Mario Bethke taking turns and trying to get behind the Cardinals’ backline on opposite sides of the pitch.
Once the Cardinals found their rhythm, Brett Ramirez and Hunter Phelps headed up the offensive attack, forcing Trinity goalkeeper Diego Fu into action to make a couple of early saves.
“I’m happy with Diego’s play back there. He actually runs the back very well,” said Trinity head coach Dave Norton. “He’s actually my second-string goalie, but I’ve been very pleased. He’s very consistent and I have a lot of confidence in him and so does my backline.”
The Cardinals (2-5 overall, 1-3 Heritage League) did a good job of advancing and possessing the ball in the Knights’ defensive third trying to find an opening.
In the 15th minute, Phelps answered the call and broke through the Trinity defense to give SCCS an early advantage.
Pressing a little higher, the Knights’ Andrew Ketenjian saw his opportunity and stole the ball away from an SCCS defender in Cardinals territory.
Crossing the ball into the middle of the 18-yard box, Bethke ran towards the near post and turned to level the game at 1-1.
“Mario is young and is just a freshman. He’s learning and growing and I’m excited for him,” Norton said of Bethke.
But Trinity’s triumph turned into tragedy four minutes later as the Cardinal regained the lead on a foul and penalty kick for Phelps’s second goal of the first half.
With a 2-1 advantage coming out of the half, SCCS looked to have the win in hand after an own goal by the Knights off a corner kick by Gavin Kostjuk in the 55th minute of play.
But once again, the Knights responded with a goal of their own a minute later after a Joey Haro collected a ball and swept past the Cardinal goalkeeper to get the Knights within one goal.
The Knights had one more chance to tie the match with under two minutes left as Joseph Monroy got a touch on a loose ball in the Cardinals’ defensive third, but TJ Evans made the game-sealing save as the ball was about to cross the goal line.
The Cardinals pick up Heritage League play back up against Palmdale Aerospace Academy on Tuesday, Jan. 14, while Trinity plays Boron at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.