By Ryan Menzie
Signal Sports Writer
The Hart Indians (8-1-5, 8-0-4) have been riding a wave of winning for their past eight games in a row and faced a tough task in meeting the Valencia Vikings (9-7-3, 8-2-2) for the second time in as many days.
The Indians needed to avoid the loss column just one more time. Their hard work and dedication from all season had finally paid off.
The Indians tied with the Vikings, 1-1, on Saturday to clinch the Foothill League title despite a late flurry of shots by the Vikings in the final extra minutes of the game. A team that has only given up 11 goals all season long showed one final time why they deserved to be called league champions.
“It feels great to be league champions,” said Indians’ head coach Gio Salinas. “The boys had to transform into a different team due to the absences dealt with COVID-19. For us it’s good to continue the tradition and legacy of always winning league and now we’re looking forward to the CIF playoffs.”
The Indians came out dominating the possession of the ball in the first half, shooting many more shots at the goal than the Vikings. To the Vikings’ credit, no goals were allowed from either team in the first half regardless of shot attempts in a game where it seemed just one goal would be the deciding factor.
Another 22 minutes of game time would pass in the second half before the first goal would finally be scored. The Indians’ Sebastian Ramirez would get hit inside the goalkeeper’s box, to set up a 1-0 lead on a penalty kick shot.
The Indians needed to hold off the Vikings for just 18 more minutes to officially be crowned league champions.
It seemed the game script was going in that direction, but the Vikings miraculously would end up scoring a goal in the final extra minutes of the game. In a flurry of shots at the goal, Lukas Goulet came up with a goal on a shot that ricocheted off of Indians’ goalkeeper Jaime Gonzalez.
Before the final whistle blew, the Vikings would end up with multiple scoring opportunities off corner kicks. The Indians were inches away from allowing their solo league title hopes to slip away, but would hold on for the final stops of the game and officially secure the Foothill League title.
The Hart Indians open their playoff run at home on Saturday at 3 p.m. against Oxnard while the Vikings go on the road to face Buena on Friday at 5 p.m.
“Our team performed with so much heart and passion to compete. I’m so proud of them,” said Vikings’ head coach Ken Claborn. “We’re playing better now than we have played all year so it shouldn’t be hard to keep the momentum going into the playoffs. The guys are fired up and it should be motivation moving forward. I couldn’t be prouder of a group of guys besides them right now.”