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Outstanding L.A. Cathedral boys' soccer team knows how to have fun

Football is usually considered bigger than futbol on high school campuses in the U.S., but don't tell that to the players and fans of L.A. Cathedral, home to the No. 1 boys' soccer team in California.

Either everyone has been watching too many English Premier League games on television or the players have learned how to act a little crazy after scoring goals.

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Against L.A. Salesian last week, Luis Cazares scored, then ran off to the side by himself, leaped into the air and did a swan dive into the turf. It's called the "Dead Fish" in soccer lingo. Cathedral fans were laughing, smiling or shaking their heads.

And the best part of all, no penalty was called. Unlike celebrating in football, where a yellow flag is thrown, or celebrating in basketball, where a technical foul is called, soccer officials don't seem too concerned as long as the celebration doesn't become taunting or a shirt is taken off. Even officials watch professional games, where players celebrate goals by sliding on their knees, taking an imaginary selfie or doing backflips.

High school players are coming up with their own routines. It's refreshing to see the passion and enthusiasm allowed to be seen in a positive manner. After all, scoring a goal is like hitting a home run.

Cathedral (20-1-2) has won two Southern Section titles and a regional championship in recent years, and this might be one of the Phantoms' best teams because of their depth.

It starts with Irving Arvizu, a powerfully built 6-foot-1 junior who projects as a college standout. When he unleashes a shot, the goalie better be ready because the ball will have power and precision.

"I started at the age of 4," Arvizu said. "My father introduced me and I have never looked back."

He has plenty of competition.

Max Valdivia, a senior who seemingly never leaves home without a honey stick to sip in his mouth before games, has 17 goals. Derrick Gracia, a 6-1 goalie, has 16 shutouts.

Cathedral High's soccer team has relied on Irving Arvizu (left), Derrick Gracia and Max Valdivia en route to a 20-1-2 record.
Cathedral High's soccer team has relied on Irving Arvizu (left), Derrick Gracia and Max Valdivia en route to a 20-1-2 record. (Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

"I'm blessed to be surrounded by so many great players," Arvizu said. "I'm amazed by how much talent we actually have."

When the section's playoff pairings are released Monday, Cathedral should be the No. 1 seed in Division 3. There are outstanding teams throughout the Southland. Paramount, Anaheim Servite and Los Angeles Loyola lead the way in Division 1. In the City Section, Granada Hills, El Camino Real and Canoga Park have top squads.

Canoga Park's Ezequiel Quijada is the City Section's all-time scoring leader with 137 goals, including 36 this season.

In girls' soccer, Aliso Niguel, Studio City Harvard-Westlake and Lake Forest El Toro are the teams to beat in Division 1.

So is this the best Cathedral team?

"That's a great question," Coach Arturo Lopez said. "We've had some special teams. They have a couple games left. God willing, if we can have some success at the end, they can make their claim to it."

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These players sure know how to have fun. They went to Disney World on a soccer trip to Florida and took photos with Mickey Mouse. They sing after games. They wave to their fans. And who knows what will happen if they win a championship.

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