MONROVIA — It took a last-second goal in extra time for the La Cañada High boys' soccer team to claim the Rio Hondo League title the last time it was at Monrovia High.
Armand Bagramyan didn't want such a dramatic ending Wednesday when the Spartans opened league at Monrovia. The senior forward finished with a hat trick with two of his goals coming in a 15-minute span to propel La Cañada to a 4-2 victory.
The Wildcats (9-4-4) stayed competitive after falling behind, 2-0, and tied the contest on a pair of goals from James Alewine in the 37th and 52nd minutes.
“I just felt like we were going to lose, honestly,” said Bagramyan, who did it all knowing there were coaches from UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine scouting him during the game. “They had higher motivation and higher intensity than us. … I knew I had to kill off the game so I took some chances and scored two more.”
La Cañada Coach Alex Harrison said it was a bit of deja vu from Feb. 9, 2012, when the Spartans gave up a goal to the Wildcats at Monrovia High five minutes into stoppage time. It appeared Monrovia had the game and a share of the league title won until La Cañada scored less than a minute later to end the game in a 3-3 tie, which clinched the title outright for the Spartans.
“Honestly, I think that's when we play best with our backs against the wall because the intensity level raises,” said Harrison, whose team improved to 11-2-1 and maintained its spot at No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division V rankings. “I think we always have the difference.”
Bagramyan's second goal of the day was sparked off two beautiful passes from teammates Filip Franke and Aidan Tourani. Tourani launched the ball about 50 yards down the field on a free kick to Franke, who was at the top right corner of Monrovia's box.
Franke laid the ball off into the middle of the box to Bagramyan, who buried a shot into the bottom right corner to give La Cañada another lead, 3-2, with 15 minutes to play.
“[Bagramyan] was marked by two guys the whole time,” Franke said. “It was all the team movement to get him open. You just got to get it to his feet and he'll score.”
Bagramyan added another goal off a series of passes from Franke and Andrew Meeker. The quick passes led to Bagramyan springing free down the left side of the Wildcats' box. The forward fired a shot across the goal that gave the Spartans insurance with two minutes to go.
It was nothing Harrison hadn't seen before.
“It's been going on all year,” he said. “[The team] sets [Bagramyan] up in beautiful position and he can do the rest by himself.”
It was Bagramyan who set the table for the first goal of the game when he took a free kick from about 30 yards out and struck past Monrovia's goalkeeper and off the right post. The rebound came right to the feet of La Cañada's Marc Kaeslar, who knocked it in for the easy goal in the 18th minute.
Kaesler returned the favor just two minutes later when he took a long pass from Tourani on the right side of Monrovia's box before centering it Bagramyan, who buried it into the top drawer to give the Spartans a 2-0 lead.