BURBANK — Going into its penultimate game of the Pacific League boys' soccer season Tuesday hosting fourth-place Arcadia, the championship could not be denied first-place Burroughs if it won its final two games.
But, with second-place Crescenta Valley locking horns with third-place Pasadena at the same time, the Indians could step right into their first league title since 2009 with a victory and just a little help from the Bulldogs.
Burroughs received that help when Pasadena played to a 1-1 draw with the three-time defending champion Falcons.
Burroughs, which along with Arcadia are the only Pacific League teams not to have a tie in league, then did its part, using a hat trick from Manny Celio to secure a 4-2 victory and earn the right to wear the Pacific League boys' soccer crown.
"I'm very proud of the guys," said Burroughs Coach Michael Kodama, whose squad is ranked No. 8 in CIF Southern Section Division III "They worked very hard for this."
From the beginning, the Apaches came out determined to hold Burroughs (13-6-2, 10-3 in league) without an early goal like the one it had gotten in the third minute of its 4-1 victory against CV last Friday that propelled the Indians into sole possession of first. The mantra of "the first five minutes" could be heard from the Arcadia (9-10-1, 6-7) bench.
The visitors did hold Burroughs off for the first five, despite a shot on a free kick from Celio in the third minute that clanged off the near post. But in the sixth minute, Celio could not be denied, scoring the first of his goals in spectacular fashion. Andres Aguilar stole the ball in the center of midfield before bending a pass out to Celio running down the left side of the field toward goal. As Celio collected the pass, the ball came up into the air while Arcadia defenders flocked to him. The senior then touched the ball through the air to himself multiple times, moving into the center of the field as he looked to settle the ball. Then, amid a throng of Apaches, Celio hammered a low-driving shot into the back of the net for the early 1-0 advantage.
"It was all instinct," Celio said of his first goal, "going up one way, then the other way, and then at last I had the opportunity to take a shot and it went in."
Celio struck again in the 22nd minute, once again attacking at speed down the left side of the field going in. He then cut the ball into the middle of the field with defenders crowding him and unleashed a powerful shot that crossed in front of Arcadia goalie Andrew Chin and into the side netting.
Arcadia forward Diego Gonzalez, who notched both of his team's scores, cut the lead in half three minutes later on an assist from Wesley Pickering. Gonzalez received the pass on the left side, collected himself, and then blasted a pinpoint shot past Indian net minder Elliot Whitecotton just inside the far post halfway up the pipe.
Burroughs led, 2-1, at half, while CV and PHS sat tied at zero at the break.
Burroughs dominated the second half, as Arcadia looked to create chances by pressuring the Indians' back line. However, Burroughs held tough and Celio struck again 18 minutes in on a beautiful combination with a junior Xavi Izqueta, who shined in the second half.
"I just had good chances open and I just converted a lot of good plays from my teammates," Celio said.
Celio threaded a pass to Izqueta, which broke him loose behind the scrambling Arcadia defense. Izqueta then carried the ball deeper, moving slightly right before stepping on top of the ball to send it backward to an onrushing Celio who finished it with power for his first hat trick of the season.
"I knew I'm not a rightly, so I knew I didn't have the shot. So I thought I'd be unselfish and give it to [Celio]," Izqueta said of his artful assist.
Izqueta got a goal of his own in the 74th minute on a long, hard shot going right to left. Gonzalez got his second goal two minutes later when he struck a ball one-time out of the air off a floating cross, but that was as close as Arcadia would get before the final whistle blew and Burroughs claimed the Pacific League title outright as its own.
"You hope for it," Kodama said of the league title, "but we had to come a ways. I mean, we were .500 in the preseason, so it took a ways."
The Indians still have one game left in league play. Although it will not affect their standing, it is a road game against cross-town rival Burbank on Thursday, so it still carries weight.
"I just hope this motivates us to go even further in playoffs, take this momentum and just take it forward," Celio said. "Maybe we can we can even take it the whole way."