LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE — It’s a bit unclear if St. Francis High senior forward Amir Moore actually saw what he was shooting at.
“I just felt like it was there,” Moore said. “I definitely knew I was near the net.”
Whether Moore got a good look or not is rather inconsequential, all that truly matters to the Golden Knights’ soccer team is that Moore turned, shot, scored and now St. Francis is seeing something it hasn’t since 2004 — the CIF quarterfinals.
In the 76th minute, after a Jake LaPorte corner kick into the Newbury Park goal box was pinballed around, Moore gathered possession, turned and unleashed a blistering shot into the lower corner of the near post to propel the Golden Knights to a 1-0 win over the Panthers in a CIF Southern Section Division I second round contest.
With the victory, St. Francis (15-5-4) will play Long Beach Jordan, a 2-1 overtime winner against Woodbridge, on the road Friday in a quarterfinal matchup. The win also saw the Golden Knights gain a bit of revenge against the Panthers (13-7-3), who prevailed, 2-0, in a second-round match last season.
St. Francis Coach Glen Appels was quick to point out that the real motivation was moving on, but it was still good to do it at the Panthers’ expense.
“Our guys really understood the major thing here was to keep playing,” said Appels, whose team finished fourth in the Mission League, but has shut out each of its CIF playoff opponents. “There is a certain satisfaction in knowing we were in the same situation last year and did better [this year].”
As for the one who felt the greatest satisfaction in getting past Newbury Park, it was likely goalie Jordan Bell.
“I can’t even explain it,” said Bell of his adulation shortly after the game. “Last year, I was in the back of an ambulance going to the hospital right now. ... Sweet revenge.”
Bell had his jaw broken during a collision in the teams’ previous postseason meeting, was taken to a hospital and had his jaw wired for approximately six weeks after. He certainly showed no fear during a physical match on Wednesday, going airborne countless times to take away a slew of throw-ins deep in Newbury Park’s offensive end.
According to Bell, the last thing he wanted to do was worry about last year’s injury.
“That’s probably the worst thing you can do,” he said. “We’ve been struggling a little with balls in the air. That’s why I’m trying to attack a little more.”
Added Appels: “I couldn’t be happier for Jordan. If you didn’t know the story, you couldn’t tell [anything had happened] with how bravely he played.”
Bell made five saves in the shutout, but for the most part, a defense anchored by David Rios, Nick Rihn and Max Cadena bottled up the Panthers.
“The defense was outstanding today,” Bell said.
Neither team was able to get off an abundance of shots, especially on frame. But by the midpoint of the second half, things started to swing heavily St. Francis’ way and opportunities began to open up.
“I told our guys, ‘This is gonna be a one-goal game,’” said Appels, who saw quality chances by Christian Swart, Eric Verso and Brett McCreary just miss before Moore’s goal. “I told them the longer we play good defense and keep this a shutout, the better chance we have of getting that one goal. It’s pretty tough to shut us out at home.”