DOWNEY — Throughout their historic eight-match playoff journey, the Crescenta Valley High boys' soccer team found numerous ways to win in securing the program's first CIF Southern Section division championship before reaching the CIF Southern California Division I Regional Championships title game for the first time.
On Saturday night at Warren High, the fifth-seeded Falcons saw their season end with a 2-1 loss to sixth-seeded Paramount.
Some of the Crescenta Valley players were initially disappointed with the outcome, but it didn't put a damper on what the Falcons (23-1-6) were able to achieve since late November.
"We had a fantastic season," said Crescenta Valley senior midfielder Alex Berger, who helped the Falcons win the Division IV title March 2 on the same site they performed Saturday. "There was nothing else you could ask for.
"There's nothing wrong with what we did this season. Everything was worth it."
Crescenta Valley, ranked sixth in the country and third in the state by maxpreps.com, reached into its bag for another comeback bid in the last 10 minutes.
Crecenta Valley midfielder Salar Hajimirsadeghi sliced the deficit in half when he scored on a direct kick in the 74th minute past Paramount goalkeeper Tony Maldonado. The Falcons went for the equalizer in the closing minutes and Maldonado stopped a header near the goal line by forward Pavle Atanackovic off a corner kick from Berger with two minutes left.
The Pirates, who improved to 25-4-4 and won the Southern Section Division III title, then held off the Falcons.
"We played a heck of a team," said Paramount Coach Rafa Villasenor, whose team is ranked 18th in the country by maxpreps.com and fourth in the state by ESPN High School. "We gave them their first loss and the way they dominated against El Rancho [in the Division IV championship match] shows the quality team they are."
Crescenta Valley first-year Coach Grant Clark, whose team won its third Pacific League championship, said the Falcons fought valiantly despite being outplayed throughout most of the match by the Pirates.
"With our team, we always feel like we have a chance," said Clark, whose team bested fourth-seeded Buchanan of Clovis and top-seeded Long Beach Millikan with regional road victories. "They've been figuring out ways to win all year long and we had some chances in the last 10 minutes.
"We won a CIF title and we got to the state final."
Paramount's high-pressure offense kept the Falcons at bay. The Pirates peppered Crescenta Valley goalie Nick Ruiz with 10 shots on goal, including eight in the second half.
The UC Irvine-bound Atanackovic, the reigning All-Area Boys' Soccer Player of the Year, said he wouldn't soon forget what the Falcons accomplished.
"Nobody knew we would get this far," said Atanackovic, who finished with a school-record 39 goals. "We'll look back on it as an incredible season."