The members of the Crescenta Valley High boys' soccer team understand what it takes to beat a top seed. The Falcons accomplished the feat when they defeated top-seeded El Rancho to win the CIF Southern Section Division IV championship — a team that was also ranked among the top five in the nation by ESPN High School.
Crescenta Valley will get another crack at a No. 1 team when it meets Long Beach Millikan in a Southern California Regional Division I semifinal road match at 4 p.m. today.
The fifth-seeded Falcons (22-0-6) opened the regional Tuesday with a 1-0 road win against fourth-seeded Buchanan of Clovis. Millikan, which won the CIF Southern Section Division I crown, improved to 28-2-3 on Tuesday with a 4-1 home win against eighth-seeded Carlsbad La Costa Canyon.
Crescenta Valley first-year Coach Grant Clark said the Falcons, who have won 18 consecutive matches, are prepared for the challenge of meeting another top seed.
"You don't get this far without having to play the top teams," said Clark, who led the Falcons to their third Pacific League championship in a row. "As a fan, you want to see the best game.
"We think this will be a great game and a great measuring stick for our program. Our guys want to finish. We know that they are as skilled and quick as El Rancho. This is two great teams going up against each other."
Indeed, at least judging by rankings it is, as the Falcons are ranked sixth in the country and third in California by Maxpreps, as well as sixth in the country and second in the state by ESPN HS. Millikan, perhaps surprisingly, is ranked just 22nd in the country and 12th in the state by Maxpreps, but fifth nationally and first in the state by ESPN HS.
Crescenta Valley received a goal in the 17th minute from Alex Berger to dispatch Buchanan, which won the Central Section Division I championship.
Berger, a senior midfielder and a reigning All-Area honoree, said the Falcons, who have recorded 15 shutouts, are up to the task of competing against the Rams.
"We know that we are going to have to play to our full potential," Berger said. "We don't know much about them yet, but obviously we know they are a very good team having won their division.
"It's an honor to play them. It's a good feeling for us to be in this position."
Berger has nine goals and 28 assists on the season, while forward Pavle Atanackovic has 39 goals and eight assists and Erick Trejo has 10 goals and 11 assists.
Millikan fell behind, 1-0, against La Costa Canyon before scoring four unanswered goals in a 16-minute stretch midway through the second half. Connor Johnson finished with two goals and one assists for the Rams.
Millikan posted three shutouts during their run to the Southern Section title. It posted a 7-2 win against Ventura in the championship match.
The other semifinal match will pit second-seeded Torrey Pines (21-5-3) against sixth-seeded Paramount (23-4-3) at Torrey Pines at 4. The championship match will be played at 6 p.m. Saturday at Warren High in Downey, where the Falcons topped El Rancho on Friday.