M. Soccer: Last-minute goal propels Falcons to CCCAA State Championship

Cerritos men's soccer celebrates CCCAA State Championship
Cerritos men's soccer celebrates CCCAA State Championship

With time running out and playing with an 11-9 player advantage, the Cerritos College men's soccer team was able to convert a penalty kick in the 89th minute to capture their fourth CCCAA State Championship with a 2-1 win over Golden West College. With the game tied after the Falcons scored in the 72nd minute, Golden West saw their second player receive a second yellow card, which left them two players down for the final three minutes. The win at  Ventura College on Sunday was the school's fourth state title, and first since the 2014 season.

Attacking on the eventual game-winning play, freshman Kevin Diaz (Connections Academy HS) was tackled inside the 18-yard box, which called for a penalty kick. Up stepped sophomore Erick Gallinar (Connections Academy HS/UC Irvine), who buried the ball into the left side of the goal, which propelled the Falcons to the state title. The open field gave Cerritos the ability to widen their forwards, which stretch the Rustler defense and resulted in the foul inside the box.

The two teams played earlier in the season at Cerritos, with the Falcons using their wide field to post a 1-0 win. Playing on an artificial surface football field in the state championship game required Cerritos to shorten their passes and absorb the physical play by Golden West as much as possible while looking for their scoring opportunities.

Trailing 1-0 in the 20th minute after a long goal by the Rustlers, the Falcons, seeded #1, scored twice in the second half to earn the state title. After a season-opening loss, Cerritos concluded the season going unbeaten in their final 24 games (22-0-2), which included wins in their final 14 games. Cerritos tied the game in the 72nd minute, which was two minutes after the Rustlers were forced to play a man down due to a second yellow card on Kevin Everastico. On each occasion that Golden West was forced to send a player off the field for the remainder of the game, Cerritos was able to strike.

They tied the game when Diaz brought the ball into Rustler territory, which drew in the defense. He found sophomore Alberto Carrillo (Lynwood HS) on the right side and he completed the combination play when Carrillo was able to send a line drive into the far corner of the goal, giving Cerritos life. It was Carrillo who also scored the lone goal in the team's 1-0 2nd Round Playoff in over Oxnard College.

"We expected physical play from Golden West and it came back to hurt them," said head coach Benny Artiaga, who has led the Falcons to all four of their state titles. "Although we expected the physical play, you can't anticipate loss of rhythm. But to our guys credit, they never lost confidence and we continued to play our style of soccer. Their two red cards was symbolic of the way they play and to our team's credit, we didn't receive a single red card all season."

The Rustlers took a rare lead against a Cerritos team this season, as Everastico lined up for a free kick from 62 yards out. His shot had enough break and topspin to get past sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Aldama (North Torrance HS). Golden West would get just one more shot on goal the remainder of the game.

Aldama, who was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, said that it was the players in front of him that led to the championship.

"I gain my confidence from the players in front of me," said Aldama, who posted a career 33-1-9 record as the Falcons goalkeeper. "Since the last whistle last season (a penalty kick elimination in the state semifinals), we had it in our heads that we needed to win this year. "Not 'had to win', but NEED to win. We left so much on the field last year and we weren't about to let that happen again this season."

Artiaga also praised goalkeeper coach Chris Lekavich for preparing and training Aldama for two seasons. "Chris had Jordan tactically prepared and from the first day I saw him play in high school, I knew he was a perfect fit for our formation. He can attack and defend and was the key to our success."

The physical play by Golden West forced the Falcons to shorten their passes and move the ball across the field quicker. It took some time go get into their rhythm, but the Falcons continued their persistence and it paid off in the final 18 minutes of the game.

"Today was an amazing feeling," continued Artiaga. "I knew the soccer gods would come through and we would prevail. Their play forced us to play certain players because it gave us a better attack. We pushed our line up and once they started losing players, the execution gave us favorable results."

Photos by Daryl Peterson