M. Soccer: Win over rival keeps team unbeaten

Christian Perez scores the game's lone goal in a win over Mt. SAC
Christian Perez scores the game's lone goal in a win over Mt. SAC

It is one of the most heated rivalries in any sport among California Community College athletics. When Cerritos College and Mt. San Antonio College meet up in a men's soccer game, it's hard to tell if it's a regular season game or a state championship game. On Friday, the Falcons (9-0-3) got the best of the Mounties (10-2-2) with a 1-0 South Coast Conference crossover win. Ranked #2 in the country in this week's United Soccer Coaches poll among Division III (non-scholarship) schools, Cerritos beat #4-ranked Mt. SAC for the first time since their 3-1 victory in the 2014 CCCAA State Championship game. In fact, since the Falcons defeated the Mounties four times on their way to the 2008 state title, they entered the game with just a 2-13-4 record against their rival. They will look to remain unbeaten when they travel to East Los Angeles College next Tuesday for another conference crossover match.

Although the Falcons haven't had much success against the Mounties in the last eight seasons, they games have been hotly contested. Of the 13 losses during that time frame, seven of them have been by one goal, while three of the losses against them were 3rd Round Southern California Regional Playoff games.

The game on Friday was a series of body blows for 90 minutes, with each team looking for a chance to take a big swing. It was tightly contested with many fouls (43) and both teams receiving four yellow cards. Both goalkeepers came up with big saves to keep the game scoreless in the first half, with the Falcons able to strike quickly in the 59th minute for the game's lone goal.

Sophomore Adrian Becerra (Morningside HS) got the eventual game-winning goal started when he stole the ball near midfield and quickly worked between a pair of Mounties players. He sent the ball to freshman Christian Perez (Paramount HS), who had his back to the goal just outside the far corner of the 18-yard box. In one swift move, he controlled the ball, turned and fired off a shot. It was a precision shot that hit the back of the net after clearing the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Edwyn Gutierrez and landing just under the crossbar.

Even with the lead, both teams knew there was plenty of time left on the clock for either an equalizer or an insurance goal. Freshman goalkeeper Jordan Aldama (North Torrance HS), who made a diving save on a hard shot by Sam Ponting in the first half, turned him away once again in the second half. The Mounties also missed out on a free kick that went over the crossbar and just missed on connecting that final pass for a high percentage shot as the minutes ticked off the clock. Aldama finished the game with five saves and his seventh shutout of the season.

In the end, the Falcons came away with a huge win as they look to get back into the discussion on who is going to be a threat for the state title. The last two times Cerritos won the state title, they defeated the Mounties.

Photos by Daryl Peterson