Falcons boys' soccer splashes through pool

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Going into its matchup with Crescenta Valley High as part of pool play in the Ralph Brandt Tournament at Friedman Field, host St. Francis was yet to have a definitive result after tying its first two soccer games of the season, while the Falcons were unbeaten in their first three games. However, both had tied fellow group member North Hollywood in their first games in the Brandt, so Saturday night's winner would take the group and advance.

"Playing St. Francis in this atmosphere, our kids love it, they look forward to it every year," Crescenta Valley coach Grant Clark said.

In the end St. Francis got its definitive result, but not the one the Golden Knights wanted, as the Falcons played a complete game and came away with a 3-0 victory, the top spot in the group, and their first shutout of the season.

"If we can put up shutouts often, it puts us in a good spot when we get into league to take care of business and get a good spot in the playoffs," Clark said.

Crescenta Valley (3-0-1) anchored itself to an early lead on a goal by Justin Wright four minutes into the game on a free kick from about 25 yards out following a Golden Knight foul. The sophomore's shot rocketed into the upper corner, not giving St. Francis goalie Luke Hatanaka any chance to stop it. It was the sophomore's team-leading third goal of the season.

"I don't usually take free kicks, but I called it," Wright said. "I wasn't going for finesse. I knew where I wanted to hit it."

Soon after, Hatanaka was knocked out of the game following a collision in the 12th minute, to be replaced by Ryan Veiga, who played the remainder of the game.

At the 35-minute mark, the referee whistled the half over before being reminded by both coaching staffs about the 40-minute duration. This proved fortunate for the Falcons, who in the half's final two minutes scored a second goal when Pablo Hernandez blasted a shot past Veiga after a ball struck a defender from St. Francis (0-1-2) in the rainy, wet, and sloppy conditions that persisted throughout the game.

"It was thanks to Erick Trejo," Hernandez said of his goal. Trejo had kicked the ball into the box that deflected off a Golden Knight and dropped in front of Hernandez, allowing him to finish for the 2-0 advantage at the break.

In the second half, Trejo almost contributed to another goal as the lineman on the Falcons' side stepped toward the middle of the pitch to caution coach Clark about his senior's conduct. With no one watching for off-sides position, Falcon Matt Ryan received the ball behind the St. Francis back line and almost scored, only to see the ball trickle wide as the Golden Knight defenders dropped back to engage him.

However, Ryan, who had the only goal in Friday's 1-1 tie with North Hollywood, would not be denied. Crescenta Valley added a late score for the only goal of the second half when Ryan scored from the middle of the field off an assist by Russell Carpenter with 4:14 left to go.

After not generating much offense in the first half, St. Francis' attack came alive in the second half, but never could quite get the job finished against the Crescenta Valley defense anchored by center backs Rani Dimashki and Brian Ju.

"We did enough to get a couple goals, but we didn't put them away," St. Francis coach Glen Appels said.

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