LA CRESCENTA — Crescenta Valley High's boys' soccer team entered its first-place matchup with Burroughs riding a wave momentum and ranked atop CIF Southern Section Division III and 16th in the state by Maxpreps.com.
But it is the Indians who hold the distinction of being the reigning and defending Pacific League champions.
And it was the Indians who emerged from their showdown with the Falcons still in first place, as Burroughs defeated host Crescenta Valley, 2-1, on Monday afternoon at Crescenta Valley High.
"We definitely didn't play our best game," said Burroughs co-Coach Oscar Sanchez, who took the reins with Mike Kodama absent due to a work commitment. "It was ugly, but we found a way to win and, at the end of the day, that's what's important."
Junior Andres Aguilar scored with four minutes remaining in the first half to break a scoreless deadlock and present Burroughs with a 1-0 lead. A ball put forward by Indians junior VJ Salazar was deflected in with 10 minutes to go in the game for what would stand as the game-winner, as Falcons junior Justin Wright tallied a score in the 80th minute.
"We had the ball on their side for a good while," Falcons Coach Grant Clark said, "it just didn't translate into the scoreboard."
With the victory, Burroughs improved to 7-2-3 and 3-0 in league and ran its league unbeaten streak to seven games dating back to last season. In the process, the Indians also put a halt to the Falcons' five-game winning streak, ending an 11-game unbeaten streak and handing Crescenta Valley (13-2-2, 2-1 in league) its first loss since a 3-2 setback on Dec. 10 against Bellflower, the fourth-ranked team in Division IV.
The first half was very much a back-and-forth exchange with up-tempo play, but Burroughs was winning the possession battle and generating more chances.
Burroughs junior David Campos took the remnants of a corner kick and lofted a shot just over the scrum in front of the Crescenta Valley net and just over frame in one of the Indians' better chances.
But with roughly 12 minutes to go, the Falcons took over.
With CV dictating the tempo and run of play, it all suddenly came to a halt when Aguilar lined up for a direct kick from roughly 30 yards out and laced a shot just under the crossbar and over the outstretched hands of Falcons goalie Chris Mardiroussian.
"Free kick goes in and it changes the game," Clark said.
But in the second half, Crescenta Valley, though visibly frustrated and sloppy in its attack, kept up control, possessing the ball and getting far more chances, as it out shot Burroughs, 10-7, for the game and, most notably, took nine corner kicks to just one for the Indians.
"That's what it boils down to," Clark said. "We just made too many mistakes in our passing game and our communication. Against a lesser team, maybe we still win, but not against Burroughs. Against Burroughs, everything has to be right."
Falcons senior Eric Hartoonian had perhaps his team's best chance, as a quick corner kick eventually found its way in front of the Burroughs goal mouth, where Hartoonian tapped a five-foot shot on net. But Burroughs goalie Alberto Meir made one of his five saves, this of the diving variety.
With 12 minutes left, Wright took a ball off a corner kick and, nearly at the endline, flipped a shot on goal that hit under the crossbar and bounced away.
"The main difference was we put away our chances," Sanchez said. "[Crescenta Valley] has a good team, they just didn't put their chances away."
Two minutes later, Salazar struck a ball form 35 yards out.
Clark said he saw it hit off the back of Burroughs' Artur Veisyan and then deflect in.
Sanchez said he thought it deflected in off a Crescenta Valley defender.
Either way, it added up to a 2-0 Burroughs lead.
"It was a lucky goal," Sanchez said, "but we'll take it any day."
In the aftermath, a frenzied Falcons attack amounted to few chances until a whipping shot by senior Tony Royer went just over frame.
Moments later, Wright drilled a free kick inside the near post from 20 yards out.
Seconds later, though, Burroughs had held on for a 2-1 win.
Said Aguilar: "An ugly game that we came up with the win."