LA CRESCENTA — Something had to give.
The Burroughs High and Crescenta Valley boys’ soccer teams came into their Pacific League match Wednesday with just one point separating them in the standings. While the Falcons sat in first, the Indians were right behind in second.
In addition, Crescenta Valley — the defending league champion — was unbeaten in its last six matches and Burroughs had not lost in its previous five.
Adding to the drama was the fact that the squads tied the first time they played one another.
The Falcons left little doubt that they are serious about repeating as champions. Behind a superb performance from junior Pavle Atanackovic, in which he had a hand in all of his side’s goals, Crescenta Valley handed Burroughs a 4-1 loss.
The Indians (7-3-2, 5-2-1 in league) had a tough time defending Atanackovic, who continually got behind the Burroughs defense, scoring three goals and dishing out an assist.
“It really all begins with our defense,” said Atanackovic, who has helped the Falcons to 8-2-5 and 6-0-3 marks. “Our defense did a very good job.
“We knew this was an important game for us. We wanted to play hard because it was our home field, and we also wanted to win because we knew [Burroughs] was only one point behind us.”
The hat trick gives Atanackovic 19 goals on the season, 15 coming in league.
Burroughs Coach Allen Machuca said he was hoping for a better result from his team, taking into consideration the Indians could move into first with a win.
“This was a huge game,” Machuca said. “But [Crescenta Valley] just played better than we did. They outhustled us, outplayed us and I think that they wanted it more than we did.”
Although Crescenta Valley struck first, Burroughs was able to keep the contest close early in the first half.
Atanackovic tallied his first goal in the 16th minute on a heady play. The Burroughs goalkeeper got the ball and readied to kick it away. Instead of retreating, Atanackovic charged the keeper and blocked the offering right when the ball was kicked. The ball banked off of Atanackovic and into the goal.
The Indians were able to tie the score at 1 in the 20th minute when Brian Arzate scored off of a free kick.
But Atanackovic struck again in the 22nd minute, as he scored on a header, getting behind the Indians defense.
“Three mistakes, three goals in the first half,” Machuca said. “They didn’t have many shots, but they took advantage of the ones they got.”
Enjoying a 3-1 lead in the first half, Burroughs didn’t create much on offense in the second half.
Atanackovic got his final goal in the 53rd minute on a penalty kick.
“We just have developed a killer instinct,” Crescenta Valley Coach Kiel McClung said. “That’s something we just didn’t have at the beginning of the season.”