Hard-fought tie keeps intrigue in De Anza boys' soccer race

Hard-fought tie keeps intrigue in De Anza boys' soccer race

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Hard-fought tie keeps intrigue in De Anza boys' soccer race

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THERMAL

The quest for a three-peat is on hold.

In a battle for the De Anza League boys’ soccer championship Friday night, nothing was decided in a 0-0 deadlock between two-time defending champion Desert Mirage and upstart Shadow Hills.

With one week remaining on the regular season schedule, the Rams stand at 5-1-1 with one game to play — against Yucca Valley next Friday. The Knights are 4-1-1 with a home game Tuesday against Yucca Valley and a road finale Friday against Desert Hot Springs.

Rams’ coach Jorge Chavez noted the coveted title is one win away, but he knows the Knights can grab a share as well.

“The last time we played them we had a couple of really good shots at goal, but now the difference in the two games is just one goal,” said Chavez, whose Rams (11-6-3 overall) defeated Shadow Hills 1-0 in the first meeting. “They’re a decent team and definitely getting more and more talented.

“Now we just have to make sure we go to Yucca and win to be at least co-champs.”

Although Chavez admitted his team performed a bit more conservatively against the Knights on Friday night at home, he was happy with the effort. He got a strong performance from Juan Gutierrez in the midfield, also Luis Alvarado, Martin Uribe and Fred Zaragoza stood out. And although he was rarely tested, goaltender Michael Cruz was timely and did what was needed.

“We just have to finish,” said Rams’ senior Alvarado. “I think there was a huge difference this time against Shadow Hills. Now we just have to go out and win.”

Desert Mirage controlled the play in the early part of the game, keeping the ball in Knights’ territory, but as the game went on, Shadow Hills’ stepped up. Senior David Diaz and the sophomore midfielder duo of Jose Hernandez and Eddie Garduno were solid.

The Knights were able to close out the first half strong and for much of the second half, each team had chances, but both were limited.

“I thought it was gonna be like the last time, really close,” said Garduno. “I thought we had that game when it was home. We’ve never won league before. Now we have our chance.”

Hernandez added that those chances were slim against the Rams.

“It was hard because they were playing good and we were playing good,” he said. “The defenses were good and both were keeping the balls out. It was equal. There really wasn’t a lot of chances. It was a tight, tight game.”

Hugo Herrera played well and Luis Torres turned in a solid defense performance for the Knights (7-6-1 overall) while goalie Angel Villalobos also was strong, hanging on in the end when one last ditch Rams’ effort in the first overtime period bounced hard off the top of the crossbar.

Shadow Hills coach Derek Orkney said his team knew what was at stake and he was elated to see the progress they’ve made since the last meeting.

“It really does feel pretty good,” he said. “We’re gaining in the belief if we did what we’re supposed to, we can have good night’s like this. To play Desert Mirage at home with this much excitement in the end, is great. The boys worked hard and even harder in the extra time.”

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