Falcons' CIF magic continues

LOS ANGELES — Throughout the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs, the members of the Crescenta Valley High boys' soccer team have found ways to create their own breaks.

On Thursday afternoon during a quarterfinal road match against Salesian, the Falcons found two more sources to keep their historical season intact.

Crescenta Valley saw goalkeeper Nick Ruiz score in the waning seconds of regulation to tie the match and midfielder Erick Trejo score an unlikely match-winning goal in overtime to post a 3-2 victory.

Third-seeded Crescenta Valley will meet Oak Hills (23-2-3) in a semifinal road match at 3 p.m. Tuesday. Oak Hills picked up a 2-1 overtime road win against second-seeded Artesia on Tuesday.

"I'm thrilled," said exhausted Crescenta Valley first-year Coach Grant Clark, whose team improved to 2-0 in overtime in the playoffs. "It's good for us, the program, the school and the other teams [at Crescenta Valley] feed off it."

The Falcons' season appeared to be coming to a conclusion until the 12th minute of stoppage time. Clark pulled Ruiz from the goal with about a minute left in stoppage time. Trejo threw the ball in to Salar Hajimirsadeghi. The ball then deflected to Crescenta Valley's Pavle Atanackovic before Ruiz scored on a 15-yard shot just before regulation ended.

In the 83rd minute, Crescenta Valley pressed for the winning goal.

Alex Berger lofted a corner kick that hit Trejo in the chest. The ball then appeared to glance off a Salesian defender and into the net past Salesian goalkeeper Alex Radillo, setting off a celebration that lasted about a minute.

Trejo said the Falcons' resiliency paid dividends.

"We kept pushing in the end, and our coaches kept driving it," Trejo said. "I could see the ball and it hit me.

"Pavle is our go-to guy, but we have others who get it done. We had a goalie score and a sweeper score."

Ruiz, a senior, couldn't have picked a better time to score his first career goal, especially after making 10 saves against the athletic Mustangs (12-4-3).

"Pavle had a good flick on it and [the ball] bounced," Ruiz said. "I had to go for it because I had nothing to lose.

"It's about finding a way to win and we have a lot of heart and experience."

Crescenta Valley, which won the Pacific League championship for the third straight season, opened the scoring in the third minute. Berger's corner kick was punched out in front of the goal by Radillo before Matt Schmutzer grabbed the rebound and fired a low shot inside the right post.

Salesian, which won the Santa Fe League crown, then gained momentum throughout most of the rest of the first half. However, Ruiz made a couple of nice stops in the closing seconds to preserve a 1-0 lead.

The Mustangs knotted the game at 1 when Jose Avila took a pass from Aldo Diaz and beat Ruiz in the 58th minute.

Salesian then grabbed a 2-1advantage on a set play in the 74th minute. Michael Mojarro's throw-in was corralled by Ricardo Cardenas, who rolled a shot past Ruiz.

"Credit Salesian," Ruiz said. "I made a few mistakes on the second goal.

"I couldn't let the team down."

Clark said the Falcons have found ways to be clutch through the playoffs.

"As soon as it was 2-1, we were gambling," Clark said. "We went to a 3-4-3 and whether it's 2-1 or 4-1, you still lose.

"We pushed everybody forward and were gambling during the last 10 minutes [of regulation]. To win a game like this, it's destiny.

"What a great atmosphere here and the situation, to win it on this field. What a finish."

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