Falcons' first playoff berth ends in rout
Wearing teary, exasperated facial expressions, the members of the of the River Valley High soccer team stood hand-in-hand, bowed to the crowd in unison and softly uttered "thank you."
Even with as far as the Falcons have come, this was far from the ideal way to say good-bye.
The first boys sports postseason win in school history has eluded the Falcons. Center topped River Valley 5-1 on Thursday in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.
"We had the opportunities and we didn't capitalize," said Falcons coach Abel Franco.
And he wasn't trying to spin a four-goal loss into something else, the Falcons really were competitive throughout a healthy portion of the 80 minutes. Their blowout materialized late, after a would-be goal by Milad Rahim was whistled back for offsides with eight minutes remaining.
At the time, the score was 3-1. The River Valley stands were steamed and Franco paced the sidelines with his hands on his head. Another offsides with three minutes remaining had the Falcons even more flustered, and Center gladly took advantage by dumping in two quick scores.
"There were some calls that," said Franco before quickly changing his syntax," but I don't wan't to blame it one the refs."
What truly hurt River Valley was Center's speed and a Cougars' goalie that looked like he should be wearing a pair of Jordan's instead of soccer cleats. The Cougars took a 2-0 lead off a pair of backfield-torching goals by Mario Magdaleno and Jonathan Jackson and protected their deficit with a leap-happy, 6-foot-4 keeper named Matt Lovell.
"It's very nice, it's very nice," Center coach Alex Perez said of penciling in a goalie with the build of a basketball small forward.
The one goal Lovell surrendered was off a Khalid Rahim penalty kick after Carlos Corral was fouled on a breakaway. It came was in the 36th minute of the first half, and aside from that moment he had nine saves that.
Coupled with a slew of wide shots by River Valley, it was all the Cougars' needed to sail to the second round. Still, the Falcons had their moments. They controlled the pace at the end of the first and came out hyper-aggressive in the second — so much so that Lovell screamed "no more shots this early."
"We we're never comfortable in this game," Perez said. "They fought hard; they were a good team."
The Falcons had never made the postseason in five seasons. They finally cleared that hurdle by finishing second in the Tri-County Conference, including a 2-1 win over Yuba City. For a team that didn't have a coach until the beginning of the year and was trying to figure out the basics in preseason, that's commendable, Franco said.
"I've very proud of the way we came together this season," he said. "From nothing to something, it was an accomplishment."