Manny Toledo, Brea-Olinda High School boys' soccer coach, must have sounded overly optimistic early this season when he caught up to John Coppage, Esperanza coach, in a parking lot after a match.
"I'll see you March 7," Toledo told Coppage.
Turns out he will.
Brea (17-4-2), which was a 1986 Southern Section 2-A boys' soccer co-champion, plays Sunny Hills (18-2) for the 1987 title at 6 tonight at Gahr High School in Cerritos.
Esperanza (23-2-1), the 1986 3-A boys' champion, meets Diamond Bar (22-3-2) for the 3-A title at 8 p.m., also at Gahr. Both teams get to defend their titles, but such an occurrence seemed unlikely when Toledo spoke to Coppage earlier in the season.
At the time last December, Canyon had ended Esperanza's 61-match streak without a loss, defeating the Aztecs, 1-0.
And Brea, which lost eight senior starters from its 1986 team, started the season 3-4-3, going six straight matches without a victory.
"I said to him, 'Hey, you know what the kids can do,' " Toledo said. "And son of a gun, look where we are."
Brea eliminated Sunny Hills in the second round of the playoffs last season and shared the title with El Centro Central when the teams tied in the final.
Sunny Hills is led by senior Steve Fichtelberg (22 goals), forward Ramon Miramontes and sweeper Bernard Phelps.
Brea is led by forwards Mike Oziminski, Rob Hillard and Tony Catalano.
"At the beginning of the year, we had problems with our defense," Toledo said. "We corrected that. Then we started working on the midfield and the forwards. We didn't find the right combination until midway through league."
Esperanza, which did not allow a goal in five playoff matches last season, has shut out its three playoff opponents behind strong play from goalkeeper Joe Shuck and defender Luis Cabral. Brent Bish leads the Aztecs with 24 goals.
Three other divisional finals will be played at Gahr today. In the 1-A boys' final at noon, top-seeded Agoura (17-1-4) plays Oak Park of Agoura (14-6-1), an at-large team that upset second-seeded Santa Paula in the second round. The No. 1 Agoura girls' team (15-1-3) also is in a final against unseeded Bonita of La Verne (12-3-6) for the 2-A girls' title at 2 p.m. Unseeded Alemany of Mission Hills (13-4-2), which upset top-seeded Laguna Hills in a quarterfinal, meets second-seeded San Gorgonio of San Bernardino (29-0-1) in the 3-A girls' championship at 4 p.m.