Sunday, November 29, 2015 • 09:15

Boys soccer team headed to semifinals after thrilling win

Roberto Saldaña (10) had a pair of key assists in Valley Center's two playoff wins last week.
March 05, 2014
Up against the No. 2 seed and with a monsoon of a rainstorm on its way, the Valley Center varsity boys soccer team headed into Saturday night's CIF Division IV quarterfinal match facing a tremendous challenge.

But after a wild night of lightning, red cards, power outages and penalty kicks, the No. 7-seeded Jaguars proved that they were up to the task by beating the Chieftans 3–0 on penalties after a 1–1 tie through regulation and overtime.

To get to the quarterfinals, the Jags played against Classical Academy at Ryan Park in Escondido last Wednesday and dominated on offense to take a 4–0 win.

Valley Center wasn't as sharp as head coach Dale Blasius would have liked early on, as the Caimans put together a few probing attacks into the Jaguar zone.

But the Jags settled in and got the breakthrough from Rod Rodriguez, who electrified the fans with a dribble through three defenders and a shot from the right that hit the back of the net for a 1–0 Jaguar lead at halftime.

It was all Valley Center in the second half, as Roberto Saldaña provided a perfect cross pass to Rodriguez for goal number two, then Cristobal Collazo sent a nice through ball into the box for Anthony Rizo for the third goal of the game. Rodriguez finished off his hat trick by cleaning up a loose ball in front of the Classical Academy net and sealing the big win for his team.

The defense played very well and filled in as senior Jason Blasius went down with a bruised knee in the second half," said Coach Blasius after the game. "Both Anthony Rizo and Jake Newman filled in well at sweeper for Jason, and Paul Schaner, Thomas Stehly, Gaspar Juan and Kory Kratz held Classical Academy scoreless. And Julian Flores played one of his best games, shutting out Academy's leading scorer and holding the middle for VC as our stopper."

The win advanced the Jaguars to the quarterfinals on Saturday, and they traveled to Clairemont in the pouring rain for the big match.

Game officials observed lightning in the area in the lead up to the game, which delayed the opening kickoff by 30 minutes. Once the game got going, the heavy rain made it difficult for both teams to string much together on offense.

Only ten minutes into the game, however, the game took a massive swing when Valley Center sweeper Jason Blasius slid to tackle the ball away from the Clairemont attack. While both players were on the ground, the Clairemont player kicked Blasius in the head and was immediately shown the red card and ejected from the game.

Blasius was out of the lineup for a few minutes with a swollen jaw and cleat marks on his face, but his team made up for it by finding the breakthrough.

On a free kick, Saldaña served up a fastball about waist high and Newman got a touch on it to direct it into the net for a 1–0 Valley Center lead.

With a man advantage for the rest of the game, the Jags protected the ball and limited the chances for the Clairemont attack. The home fans didn't like what they saw and the atmosphere took a turn for the ugly, as the game officials had to stop play at one point to eject some unruly spectators from the Clairemont stands.

The equalizer came late in the game when the Jaguars were called for a hand ball in their own box, which gave Clairemont a penalty kick. Coach Blasius later said that officials told him that they weren't able to identify which Valley Center player committed the hand ball, but that they were "pretty sure" that a hand ball occurred.

The Chieftans converted the penalty to tie the game at one and send the playoff contest into overtime, where the "golden goal" came into play, meaning that the first team to score would win the game.

Despite pushing the ball on the attack throughout the entire extra period, the Jags couldn't convert on their quality chances and the game went into penalty kicks to decide a winner.

As if the drama of the moment wasn't enough, as the teams got ready to take their kicks, the lights suddenly went out in the stadium. Power was quickly restored, but the lights took about 20 minutes to power back up before the teams were able to take their penalty shots.

Valley Center took the first kick and Saldaña buried his shot for a 1–0 Jaguar lead. The Chieftans missed the ensuing shot, so Blasius went next and converted, putting the Jags up 2–0.

Once again, Clairemont failed to score, so Dano Da Silva stepped up for Valley Center and put his shot in the back of the net for a 3–0 shootout lead.

The Chieftans needed to make the next shot to keep the shootout and their season alive, but the shot clanged off the crossbar, and after a moment of confusion from the referees, the game was over and the Jaguars advanced to the semifinals.

"This is the deepest into the playoffs VC has gone in their soccer history," a proud Coach Blasius said after the game. "These guys are extremely team-oriented. Those on the field keep hustling, and the boys on the bench, while they'd like to get into the game, are supportive and positive. We had numerous chances to convert and win in regular time, and definitely chances in overtime. So to see our boys loose, laughing and confident, even with the blackout, and then make their first three shots, it shows the type of team they are. They are very supportive of each other and we're enjoying every minute of the playoffs."

The thrilling win moves the Jags one game closer to the CIF title game. The semifinal game took place on Wednesday at Hoover High School at 5 p.m. and the winner of that matchup will play in the championship game on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Clairemont High School.

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