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Live Oak stuns Orland, wins second section title
Vargas scores lone goal with just 2 minutes left in regulation
A steady wind with gusts reaching nearly 30 mph dictated the strategy and defense dominated the game, but one slip by Orland High with 2 minutes left opened the door for Live Oak's Sal Vargas to give the Lions a 1-0 victory in the Northern Section Division II championship match.
Vargas dribbled ball into the wind from midfield, after the Trojans' sweeper went down untouched, and beat goalkeeper Arturo Ornelas in a one-on-one for the only score of the game in the 78th minute and the Lions celebrated the school's second section title. The goal was just the seventh in 20 games allowed by Ornelas.
"We had to play our hearts out, you know, and show Orland what we're capable of. We were just really hungry for that title after five years of not having it back at Live Oak," Vargas said.
Live Oak coach Mike Owen is so used to traveling to Orland for the playoffs. The Trojans' field is like a home away from home, he said. The Trojans won the past three championships and have played in the championship game in eight consecutive seasons, winning four times.
The No. 2 Lions (12-1-5) finished their season in Orland six of the last seven years. They won the championship there in 2008 and lost to the Trojans in the championship game in 2010 and last season. Twice the Trojans knocked Live Oak out of the playoffs in the semifinals.
Live Oak won the toss and elected to play with the wind at their back, but the Trojans' defense never allowed them to capitalize on weather advantage. The Lions attempted eight shots in the first half, but Ornelas made diving stops on their two best opportunities.
"It was going to be a game of two different halves for us. We decided if we could win the toss to go with the wind at our back to try and force the offense a little bit. Maybe get a couple goals and play good defense. We have a good defense anyway so we thought that we should play to our strengths," Owen said
The goals never came, and the wind made it difficult to clear the ball in the second half as the Trojans challenged Lions goalkeeper Joel Cibrian time and time again. Cibrian made 16 saves, most were in the second half.
A high, arcing shot bounced a ball off the crossbar early in the second half, narrowly missing a goal. A few minutes later, the Trojans' powerful midfielder Aldrick Rosas blasted an unblockable rocket passed everyone, but it ricocheted off the left post and back onto the field.
The No. 1 Trojans (18-1-1) nearly scored off a corner kick when the ball snuck through traffic and got behind Cibrian, but three Live Oak defenders converged and cleared it away at the last possible moment, mere centimeters from the goal line.
"I thought they had a goal right there but luckily my defenders did a great job out, they helped me out a lot and they saved the goal. Finally we beat the championship team. We have a great defense and we got lucky, that's soccer, sometimes you get lucky," Cibrian said.
As time ran down, Owen thought the game was headed for overtime, but Live Oak's Cristian Leos cleared the ball and Orland's Mirsha Rosas, who shut down the middle of the field to the Lions' forwards all game, slipped as he planted his feet, leaving Vargas with a clear field between him and Ornelas.
His shot sailed just inches beyond the reach of Ornelas with about 2 minutes left in the game. Cibrian made a diving save on a strong header by Rosas, which was the Trojans' final chance to force overtime.