M. Soccer: Penalty kick win sends Falcons to state Final Four

Cerritos men's soccer team celebrates after defeating Oxnard in the playoffs
Cerritos men's soccer team celebrates after defeating Oxnard in the playoffs

Over the last several years, the Cerritos College men's soccer team has tasted disappointment when they were just one win away from the CCCAA State Final Four. In three of the last five seasons, the Falcons were defeated in the 3rd Round of the Southern California Regional Playoffs. On Saturday in their 3rd Round game against visiting Oxnard College, Cerritos almost saw victory slip through their hands. But they went 5-for-5 in the penalty kick round and came away with a 2-1 decision and have advanced to the Final Four.

Cerritos (13-3-7) will take on Taft College in the semifinals at 4:00 p.m. on Friday at Mt. San Antonio College. Earlier in the year, the Falcons lost a close 2-1 decision against the Cougars, who scored with less than a minute left to come away with the win.

Against the Condors (13-4-6), it looked like Cerritos would post a 1-0 victory. But in the final minute of the second half, the team wasn't able to clear the ball out of their defensive zone and were called for a penalty in the box, awarding Oxnard a penalty kick. Their leading scorer, Johnny Lopez, converted the kick, which sent the game into overtime.

In the first half, pressure on the Condors defense led to a turnover when freshman Christian Carrillo (Katella HS) stole the ball from Edwin Elizarraz. Once he gained possession, Carrillo struck quickly and scored on goalkeeper Eduardo Garcia for a 1-0 Falcon lead.

The Falcons turned on the offensive pressure in the extra 30 minutes and had four shots on goal. At the end of the first overtime, sophomore Jose Ochoa (Paramount HS) had a great scoring chance, but his shot was drilled off the crossbar. Neither team scored in the extra time, sending the contest to five penalty kicks for each team.

The first attempt by sophomore Ludwing Vargas (Salesian HS) was good, and Lopez stepped up to face freshman goalkeeper Ivan Del Campo (Granada Hills Kennedy HS). Lopez, who led the Condors with 15 goals on the year, sent his shot wide right and the Falcons stepped up and converted their next four shots to secure the victory. Sophomore Ricardo Covarrubias (Elizabeth Learning Center HS), who scored the game-winning penalty kick against Santiago Canyon College last year, finished off the game with his successful kick.

"I went up their knowing exactly where I wanted to shoot the ball," said Covarrubias. "I had a hard time settling the ball, but once I did, I went at it with confidence. We have a new mentality on this team and it's working really well for us. We are very excited to move on and finish something we weren't able to last year."

Said head coach Benny Artiaga, who led the Falcons to the 2006 and 2008 state championship, "I am full of emotions for this group. The coaching staff challenged them after we hit a rough patch during the season and we haven't lost since (5-0-2). We attacked them early on and played liked it was our last game of the season. Unfortunately, we let them hang around and they were able to extend the game against us. We challenged them again in overtime and we played with a lot more offensive intensity. I'm really proud of this group and we had a great group of alumni that were at the game supporting us. It's all about the program and everyone is a part of our success."

Photos by Daryl Peterson