Four second-half goals powered the Hart Indians boys’ soccer team to victory on Thursday at Larry Fiscus Field in the CIF Division 3 opening round.
Hart was down by one at the half but scored three goals in as many minutes to blow by the North Saxons, 4-1.
Indian seniors Trenton Rickard and Andy Juarez both netted a pair of scores in the win.
Hart’s long passes from midfield have earned the forwards one-on-ones with goalkeepers all season. The Saxons were able to recover on several plays to hold Hart scoreless throughout the first half before taking a lead right before halftime.
North senior Diego Valdivia delivered his team’s sole strike to open up the scoring.
Hart broke through just after halftime and rode wild on its own momentum.
Rickard broke free again at the 53-minute mark and drove the equalizer past Saxon keeper Cazzie Waller. Juarez then subbed in and made his presence felt immediately.
Hart had a quick push with several touches that ended with a Juarez go-ahead header.
“Honestly, it was a beautiful feeling,” Juarez said. “You get these goosebumps. It was nice to know we’re not going home yet. We’ve got a long way to go.”
North sent a long ball up to the Hart backline looking for offense but the tides turned quickly. Hart center back Samahj Oyewo sent another bomb across the field, where Rickard was ready to rocket in his second of the day.
The Indians were fired up, and suddenly a team that was trailing at halftime was up 3-1.
“In the first half we weren’t there,” Juarez said, “but in the second half, we were more connected. We wanted it more.”
The two stars of the game connected for the final score of the day. Rickard pushed the ball up the right wing but was met by defenders before he could break inside. The reigning Foothill League MVP fired in a huge cross from the sideline into the box and Juarez promptly iced the game at 4-1.
Hart head coach Giovanni Salinas knew the competition would be tough and will only get tougher but was regardless proud of his team’s second-half surge.
“At this point you’re playing against teams that are just as good,” Salinas said. “I think the boys played with a lot of heart and did their best refocusing and making some adjustments based on how the opponent played. Luckily those adjustments work.”
The Indians have put together yet another roster with all the makings of a CIF championship team.
Hart will next focus on round two. The Indians remain home on Saturday for a second-round matchup with the Millikan Rams.
Millikan has several offensive weapons led by junior Aaron De Leon, who has tallied 12 goals and 10 assists up front for the Rams.
It will be another big test for the Hart defense, but Salinas’ group won’t back down from any challenge as they look to extend their season into late February or March.
“I think we’re going to take it to the game one at a time but I feel like we could get there,” Salinas said. “I think we have a group of boys with one common goal. We’re playing for each other and that’s what makes a difference between a normal team and a championship team.”