LA CRESCENTA — Steady defense and scoring goals in flurries have been two constants throughout the season for the Crescenta Valley High boys' soccer team. The blueprint has helped keep the Falcons unbeaten.
The combination has also played a significant role in Crescenta Valley staying atop the Pacific League.
The combination worked once again Tuesday afternoon, as Crescenta Valley registered a 3-1 league home win against Hoover and clinched a share of the league championship.
Crescenta Valley improved to 13-0-6, 9-0-2 in league for 29 points. The Falcons, ranked No. 4 in the latest CIF Southern Section Division IV poll, can wrap up the league crown outright for the third season in a row Friday with a victory or tie against visiting Pasadena or a Burroughs loss or tie against Arcadia.
On Tuesday, the Falcons received first-half goals from Pavle Atanackovic, Salar Hajimirsadeghi and Erick Trejo to turn back fading Hoover (3-7-4, 2-5-5 for 10 points). The Tornadoes are in sixth place with three matches left, four points behind fourth-place Arcadia and Burbank. The top four teams earn automatic playoff berths.
"We come to expect us scoring two, three or four goals and it's a nice situation," said Crescenta Valley Coach Grant Clark, whose team won its 10th straight match. "It makes the game easier and it's very much textbook when we can get strong defense to go along with those goals.
"The program the last three years has made a name for itself."
Crescenta Valley received strong defensive performances from Brian Ju, Matt Schmutzer and Matthew Bracht to sweep the two-match season series against Hoover.
Crescenta Valley goalkeeper Nick Ruiz also played well, stopping eight shots.
"We played our game and we did that by staying organized," said Ruiz, who stopped a penalty shot by Sarkis Tumasyan in the 68th minute. "It's awesome to win league.
"It's my second time winning league. The team has been doing a lot of things right these last three years. We just want to keep it going in the playoffs."
Atanackovic, the reigning All-Area Player of the Year, gave Crescenta Valley a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute. Atanackovic took a pass from Alex Berger and beat Hoover goalkeeper Malek Azadegan with a line-drive shot.
The Falcons then scored twice a minute apart. Hajimirsadeghi made it 2-0 off an assist from Trejo in the 21st minute. Trejo then extended the Falcons' lead to 3-0.
The Tornadoes, who suffered a 6-1 league loss against Burroughs on Monday, finally solved Ruiz in the 73rd minute. A split second after Ruiz made a save before colliding with Hoover's Carlos Oblea, the ball squirted to Patrick Awad, who scored into the empty net.
Crescenta Valley then withstood one more Hoover rally.
Hoover Coach Kevin Cadenas said the Tornadoes dug themselves another first-half grave for the second straight match.
"It's tough to come back from 3-0, though I thought we played much better [Tuesday] than we did [Monday]," Cadenas said. "We had better chances and I saw us play with some more passion against CV.
"CV got some good goals. Good for them [sharing league]. We've now got to win our last three games. Even if we don't make the playoffs, we still want to win our last three games."