By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
The Saugus Centurions (15-4, 9-3) held one of the highest-scoring teams in the CIF Southern Section scoreless throughout regulation and overtime, but fell in penalty kicks to the visiting Citrus Hills Hawks (19-1-3, 8-0).
After both teams knocked in four of five PKs, the game went to sudden death penalties. Saugus missed its first shot, forcing all eyes on goalkeeper Hunter Maiden to force a miss. Maiden was lights out all game, registering six saves and yet another clean sheet.
However, Hawks’ defender Angel Magallon was able to knock in the game-winning PK and eliminate Saugus in the CIF Division 4 quarterfinals.
Saugus, Valencia, Hart boys’ and West Ranch girls’ soccer have now all been knocked out in heartbreaking fashion via penalty kicks this past week.
Saugus’ defense would face its biggest test yet in the fast, high-scoring Hawks offense.
Citrus Hills has flooded opponents with scoring this season, registering 90 goals. The Hawks are led by captain Manuel Talavera, who has netted a ridiculous 25 goals and assisted on 14.
Centerback Dylan Silva would be everywhere for Saugus, pushing the ball up, allowing nothing easy for the Hawks and giving Maiden a lighter workload.
“I love playing with Hunter,” said Silva. “Hunter’s probably one of the best keepers I have ever played with.”
Saugus’ defense has only conceded 13 goals all year. Juniors Silva and Maiden led the way in Citrus Hills’ third scoreless outing this season.
Both teams came out aggressive early, fully aware that they would need to capitalize on everything in this high-stakes match.
Saugus was able to take a shot within two minutes of the game but the Hawks controlled the ball for most of the first half.
The Centurions would come out stronger in the second half with a steadier attack. Saugus countered hard and shot passes deep to the Citrus Hills wings, forcing defenders to guard one-on-one with a charging Centurion. Senior forwards Blake Fusano and RJ Haring couldn’t register a goal but worked and wore out the Hawk defenders.
“The thing that really gives us such good opportunities to shut teams down but also move the ball up is how we work as one unit,” said Saugus head coach Seth Groller. “Singling out players is so tough because everybody does such a solid job.”
Passing killed Saugus in the second half. The Centurions missed out on several chances to advance and score but shanked passes out of bounds or back to the Hawks.
Citrus Hill would manage more shots on target, keeping Maiden busy, but the junior keeper held.
The windy game would go into overtime scoreless with each team having a fair share of chances.
Saugus felt the edge at the end of regulation, being at home and playing in their second consecutive overtime game, but neither team could get the ball between the posts.
The Centurions will graduate several key players but will retain a core of talented players as they look to recapture the Foothill League title and make another playoff run next year.
Saugus had a great finish after starting 2-2 on the year. The Centurions would bounce back and win 13 of their last 14 games before the matchup with the Hawks.
“This season has been great,” said Maiden. “We played as a team. We played great. Today we couldn’t get it done. It sucks but we move on.”
The Hawks now go onto the Division 4 semifinals to face the winner of King and Montclair on Tuesday.