Boys soccer ends league season as co-champs, on to CIF
The Claremont High School boys soccer team officially became the Palomares League champions Tuesday night as they soundly defeated South Hills, 9-2, on a warm winter evening in Claremont. However, they will have to share the honor, because the Diamond Bar Brahmas also won on Tuesday. The two teams have identical 9-1 records and are co-champions.
Claremont was a clear favorite going into their final game, but no one could have predicted what a wild ride was in store. In the end, seven players had goals, resulting in a score one would expect in baseball rather than soccer.
Coach Fred Bruce-Oliver wanted to give his seniors maximum field time so he placed his backup goalkeeper senior Brian McKinley in the net while letting his usual starter, senior Nathan Armas, fill in as a striker. It was the first time in his high school career that Armas had played any position other than goalkeeper, and he made the most of the opportunity, scoring twice.
His first came at the 67th minute when he caught a cross pass in front of the net and headed the ball for an easy goal. It was a very pretty play and his teammates went wild, mobbing Armas as though they had just won the World Cup.
His second goal, also the last of the game, came off a free kick after South Hills fouled him in front of the net.
“I was quite shocked, very overwhelmed,” Armas said about the goals. Asked what he thought of playing offense he added, “It was a lot different, you have to be aware what is behind you, instead of the ball coming at you.”
South Hills played very well in the first half with several missed opportunities that could have kept the game close. Claremont was up just 3-1 as the second half began but beginning at the 49th minute went on a scoring spree. They scored three times in just over three minutes and did not let up until the final whistle.
In addition the two goals from Armas, sophomore Keven Lopez also scored twice. The five boys with single goals were: senior Jack Kolodge, junior Osvaldo Lopez, senior Thomas Beck, senior Patrick Luevano and junior Haider Al Khafaji.
A cautionary note for the Pack as they move forward into the CIF tournament: the team needs to stop committing fouls in front of their net. Both South Hills goals came on free kicks and in both cases the foul could have been avoided. Facing a tougher opponent, the boys could easily lose by giving away such opportunities.
After the game the team celebrated their title victory with Coach Bruce-Oliver, giving him the traditional Gatorade dunk. It was also the last regular season home game for seniors and the families of the soon to be graduates came to the field for a ceremony.
But the matter of the co-championship still must be resolved.
It is a CIF requirement that teams must be placed first, second and third, so officials will flip a coin to break the tie, according to Coach Bruce-Oliver. It’s more than just symbolic because if you win, chances increase that you will host the first game of the CIF tournament, and if you are ranked very high could even get a bye in the first round. The outcome of the coin toss will not affect either team’s status as league champion.