Sergio Ramirez scored on a 10-yard angle shot with 15 minutes left in the game to give Central High School of El Centro a 3-2 victory over Esperanza on in the Southern Section 2-A boys’s soccer final Saturday at Gahr High.
Ramirez, who also scored the game-winner in a 3-2 overtime victory over Laguna Beach in last year’s 2-A final, got this year’s goal when he took a loose ball in front of the Aztec net and slammed a low kick past goalie Dustin Dubreuil, who replaced starter Derek Sabori at the start of the second half.
It was the third time in four years that Central (22-1-1) has won at least a share of the 2-A title. In the 1986 championship contest, Ramirez’s brother, Frank, scored the goal that gave the Spartans a 2-2 tie against co-champion Brea-Olinda.
Esperanza (16-4-2), which used an aggressive, physical defense to compensate for the Spartans’ speed advantage, was held to two shots in the second half. One of them, a 40-yard free kick by Michael Mattegit, was bobbled by Central goalie Jose Rodriguez as the ball barely crossed the goal line to tie the score at 2-2.
“I wasn’t worried after they tied the game at 2-2 because I knew we had at least six players who can come back and score at any time,” Central Coach Nabil Noujaim said. “We have a lot of skill and speed, and we can also pressure the ball.”
The Aztecs, who played the last 6 minutes one man short after Albert de los Reyes was ejected from the game for knocking down Ramirez near midfield, were unable to penetrate the Central penalty area after Ramirez’s goal.
“Esperanza is the most aggressive team we’ve faced this season,” Noujaim said. “It takes a lot of discipline to play against a style like theirs, and I was proud of the discipline we showed out there.”
Esperanza Coach Kino Oaxaca said: “They’re one helluva team. They took us out of our game. They kept our forwards from getting the ball the way we like to get it to them. They totally outran us.”
Central took a 1-0 lead 17:53 into the first half when midfielder Luis Ochoa dribbled his way past two Aztec defenders and kicked a rising shot past Sabori’s lunge into the upper corner of the net.
Four minutes later, unguarded forward Michael Voss took a crossing pass from Mattegit deep inside the penalty area and tied the score with a low kick into the goal.
Central regained the lead, 2-1, with 4 minutes gone in the second half when Juan Carlos Cortez scored on a low 20-yard shot after taking a pass from Manuel Ramos.