M. Soccer: Magical season comes to an end after PK loss

The men's soccer season came to an end after a PK's loss
The men's soccer season came to an end after a PK's loss
Already playing their CCCAA State Semifinal game at American River College on Friday without sophomore leading scorer Luis Garcia (La Habra HS), the Cerritos College men's soccer team saw their season come to an end with a penalty kicks loss to Taft College. The Falcons (17-0-7), who entered the State Final Four as the nation's top-ranked team, played the Cougars to a 1-1 draw for 120 minutes before seeing their season end by a score of 4-1 on penalty kicks. It was the second game of the season for Cerritos against Taft this season, as the Falcons earned a 1-0 win back on September 19. Since 2009, the two teams have played each other at least once, with the schools an even, 3-3-4, which includes the Falcons posting a 1-0 win in the state semifinal game back in their 2014 championship season. Garcia was forced to miss the game after receiving two yellow cards in the team's win over Golden West College that sent them to the Final Four.

The Falcons became the first team since 2007 to conclude their season unbeaten and not win the state championship. Mt. San Antonio College lost in the state semifinals to Taft on penalty kicks that season, with the Cougars going on to win the championship.

After playing 120 minutes, with each team scoring once, the game moved to penalty kicks. The Falcons advanced to the Final Four after eliminating Golden West a week earlier, were turned away on saves by Taft goalkeeper Brandon Garcia. Cerritos freshman goalkeeper Jordan Aldama (North Torrance HS), who posted a penalty kick save in the first half of the game, was unable to stop any of the shots, as the Cougars converted all four of their attempts. Only freshman Esteban Camacho (Mayfair HS) was able to convert his penalty kick.

"I'm really proud of my team for finishing an unbeaten season," said head coach Benny Artiaga. "We had the best defense in the state and penalty kicks is a tough way to lose, but also a part of the game."
Cerritos jumped on the board in the 10th minute on a goal by freshman Carlos Payeras (Lennox Academy HS). On the play, freshman Christian Perez (Paramount HS) sent a corner kick to freshman Luis Lira (La Puente HS), who attempted a heel shot. The ball was deflected to Payeras on the left side, and he drilled a shot past Garcia. The offensive chances continued for the Falcons in the first half, but Perez was wide right on a shot from in front of the net in the 28th minute, while sophomore Oscar Canela (Paramount HS) saw his shot in the 30th minute turned away by a diving Garcia.
Taking their lead into the second half, the tempo of the game started to change. Already saddled with a trio of first half yellow cards, Cerritos saw the Cougars starting to get extra penetration on the defensive side of the field. On a play that could also have been ruled offside, Miguel Coronado moved into Falcon territory and passed the ball to Alan Perez. He quickly kept the play alive with a pass to Hugo Magana, who scored on a cross-cage shot in the 59th minute to tie the game.

The calls continued to go against Cerritos who found themselves down a player in the 84th minute when sophomore Adrian Becerra (Morningside HS), the team's assist leader, was red-carded for dissent. They held off a couple of Taft scoring chances, and even had a great look in the first overtime. Sophomore Marc Calderon (Elizabeth Learning Center HS) drilled a shot just over the top of the crossbar in the 93rd minute after the Falcons were awarded a corner kick. Cerritos out-shot the Cougars, 7-2 in overtime, including 6-0 in the second overtime period, while they also had four corner kicks.

"Give Taft a lot of credit," added Artiaga. "They did what they had to do. We were very disappointed because we didn't feel many of the cards were warranted. The criteria - had it been used on both sides of the field - would have had players on both sides carded. Our players should still be proud of their unbeaten season, and should hold their heads high."