Hart boys soccer continued the momentum it had from winning the Foothill League title in a dominant 7-2 win against Royal at Hart High School on Wednesday afternoon to kick off the 2020 CIF-Southern Section Division 3 Boys Soccer Championships.
This is the second time in the 2019-20 campaign that the Indians (16-2-3 overall) took on Royal. Last time they came away with a 6-1 win. This time, the Highlanders brought energy in the first 60 minutes of the match and made it seem as if Hart could be sent packing.
“I think the kids were just a little anxious, a little nervous,” said Hart head coach Adonay Jovel. “The first 20 minutes we didn’t know how to handle the pressure of all the parents or all the people here and as they got in the first two goals, they got into the game. A little confidence and momentum going.”
Lawrence Luna had nerves of steel. Still nursing injuries on both of his heels, Luna came off the bench to net three goals for the Indians. He scored a hat trick against Royal when Hart played it earlier in the season, as well.
“We played this team before and I scored a hat trick again,” Luna said. “So, I’m like, ‘Let’s just go for it again.’ It makes me happy because as a senior and doing that in your first playoff game was incredible.”
Nicholas Woll had a solid performance as well. He scored two goals for the Indians within four minutes of each other. Nathaniel Bello and Gustavo Valdez were the other two goal scorers.
Despite Hart’s 7-2 shellacking of Royal, the Indians struggled to get off to a good start. The Highlanders were actually the ones to score first. Lucas Enriquez came forward to cut the attack short, but a solid shot to the opposite post put the Indians down 1-0.
Being behind on the score line was never an issue for Hart. After Royal (13-14) jumped out to a lead, the Hart offense woke up. Luna responded almost immediately with a goal that reminded everyone why soccer is affectionately nicknamed “the beautiful game.”
Luna dribbled toward the goalkeeper into a one-on-one situation, but that wasn’t enough for him. As he pushed forward, he showed off the footwork that makes him such a great player. He juked out the goalkeeper to give himself an open goal and an opportunity to just tap the ball in.
“I’m a senior, so when you go in, you’ve got to go in all out,” Luna said. “You’ve got to perform. You’ve just got to show the younger ones to keep working really hard. Be the example. We worked as a team; it was not just me.”
Bello scored his lone goal just before the halftime whistle, firing a rocket directly in front of the goal. The Indians turned a lackluster start into a 2-1 halftime lead.
The Highlanders regained their focus during the break and were determined to give Hart trouble in the second half. Almost immediately they did so with a goal off of a free kick in the 43rd minute.
Once again, the Indians responded almost immediately. This time seemed as if Royal had kicked the sleeping beast one too many times and it lashed back. Hart netted four goals within a 13-minute span to put the Highlanders back in their place.
“I thought they were under control to finish up in front of a big crowd,” Jovel said. “I’m going to give credit to my guys. They put the ball away. We scored with the chances we had. Hopefully, we can do it next Friday.”
The first of the four came in the 47th minute. Woll fired a long shot to the goal and it bounced off the bottom of the crossbar and back out. Luna attempted a header in response, but with the same result. The ball finally crossed the goal line when Luna rebounded his own shot with another header.
The second goal of the grouping was another Luna goal, his third of the evening. He was assisted by Joseph Ochoa. Woll scored both of his goals in those 13 minutes, as well. The first came on a cross form Cameron Castañeda. The second was a hard shot to the opposite post in the 60th minute.
The Royal attack was nearly completely shut down after the barrage of goals from the Indians. Hart maintained possession for a majority of the remaining 20 minutes, even scoring one more time on a shot from Valdez in the 78th minute.
“In reality, I think the other team gave up,” Jovel said. “After four I felt like the team stopped running.”
In the closing seconds of the game, Royal attempted bring some life to their offense and fired a laser beam at the Hart goal. Kevin Perez, who was just subbed in at goalkeeper for the final three minutes of the match, got in front of it and deflected it out of bounds to get his whole team and the Hart crowd pumped up.
With the win, the Indians move on to the second round of the playoffs. They will play at Montebello on Friday. The time of the match has not been determined yet.