It was back on September 19 that the Cerritos College men's soccer team hosted Taft College in a non-conference contest. Although they lost a close 2-1 decision, Falcon head coach Benny Artiaga benched six of his starters for that game in a disciplinary decision. But on Friday, the two teams met up in the CCCAA State Final Four game at Mt. San Antonio, with Cerritos scoring a second half goal to record a 1-0 victory. The win sends the Falcons (14-3-7) to the championship game on Sunday at 10:00 a.m. against the host Mounties, who defeated De Anza College on penalty kicks.
"I'm super excited for this group," said Artiaga, who led the Falcons to the state title in 2006 and 2008. "This has been a long time coming and these guys deserve a chance to play for the championship."
After each team had their fair share of scoring chances in the first half, Cerritos finally struck in the 73rd minute, as sophomore Jose Ochoa (Paramount HS) connected on a 35-yard shot that cleared the outstretched hands of Cougars (21-1-2) goalkeeper Juan Cisneros and under the crossbar. It was the fourth goal of the year for Ochoa.
"I saw an open shot and I took it," said Ochoa. "I've had a couple of chances in the last few games, but this shot went in. We worked though some early game jitters and when we settled down, we played with a lot of confidence."
The Falcons started the game by peppering Cisneros with several shots and then withstood an early second half surge by Taft. Cerritos goalkeeper Ivan Del Campo (Granada Hills Kennedy HS) posted four saves to help record the shutout win.
"Our approach to every game is to play with discipline and sitting those six players for that game sent a message to everyone," added Artiaga. "We knew we could afford to lose that early game because everything leads up to the championships. We're in position to win it all and I believe all of the pressure is off us. We weren't supposed to be here, but we are and we're going to leave it all on the field on Sunday morning."
Photos by Daryl Peterson
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