Eric Keshishian kicks Crescenta Valley soccer to Brandt title

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE - His coach didn't yell out instructions and his teammates didn't step forward so Eric Keshishian stepped up. One of three captains for the Crescenta Valley High boys' soccer team shouldered the burden in the most pressure-packed situation of the young season and in the championship game of the 18th installment of the Ralph Brandt Tournament. After Birmingham's Kevin Lineres was ruled for a handball inside of the box in the 79th minute, Keshishian, a senior, drilled a penalty kick to the lower-left side of the net, lifting the Falcons to a 1-0 victory Monday night at St. Francis' Friedman Field.
"It's always the players' call on the penalty kick," Crescenta Valley Coach Grant Clark said.
Keshishian blocked out the pressure of the title contest to avenge a sub-par performance by the Falcons offense.
Crescenta Valley had just four shots -- none in the first half -- and three shots on goal against a fresher looking Birmingham squad that took advantage of a tired Falcons team that was playing its ninth match in 14 days.
"In the first half, we didn't match their effort," Keshishian said. "In the second half, we had an attacking mindset."
The Falcons (8-0-1) have a mindset of finishing the season undefeated, a year after losing only one match on their way to the CIF Southern Section Division IV championship.
Now in Division III, the Falcons have hopes of another title run.
First, they had to earn a title in Ralph Brandt Tournament.
Birmingham looked like the better team, though, but it could not convert on one of its six first-half shots.
"They controlled the whole game," said Clark, whose team improved to 6-0 in one-goal matches and posted its fifth shutout of the season. "We were lucky to get out of the first half without giving up goals. We weren't doing anything we normally do in a game."
The Falcons' normal standout defense -- which was led by defender Brian Ju, who was named the tournament's most valuable player -- saved Crescenta Valley from suffering its first loss.
Birmingham had just two shots, one on goal, in the second half.
The match seemed destined for a penalty kick shootout until the waning minutes.
That's when an attack from the Falcons resulted in a handball.
"I saw the guy make the handball," Keshishian said. "I decided to take it. My spot is the bottom of the net. I hit it there."
Birmingham had a chance to tie the match in the 80th minute, but Jonathan Hinjosa's header inside the penalty box was corralled by goalkeeper Josh Cook to preserve the win.
The Falcons do not have long to celebrate the win.
They play Loyola at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday at home in the West Side Tournament.

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