LA CRESCENTA — Sitting on a couch at home and constantly staring at his cell phone for scoring updates via text was too painful for Brandon Gerlach.
The Burroughs High boys’ soccer player didn’t want to be in that position again. Instead, he wanted to use his skills to help put the Indians atop the Pacific League all by themselves.
Gerlach accomplished that with a rousing performance Friday afternoon, as he finished with one goal and two assists to lead visiting Burroughs to a 4-1 league victory against Crescenta Valley.
“Being at home on my couch and looking at my phone was way too hard for me,” said Gerlach, a junior forward who missed the first meeting against Crescenta Valley on Jan. 11 at Memorial Field because he had to serve a mandatory one-match suspension after drawing a red card in the previous match against Pasadena. “I had to come back here and be ready to play and do whatever I could to help us win.”
Burroughs improved to 12-6-2, 9-3 in league for first place with 27 points. More importantly, it moved a step closer to winning its first league title since 2009. Crescenta Valley, which has won three league championships in a row, dropped to 17-3-6, 7-2-3 for 24 points for second place. Both teams have two league matches remaining.
Gerlach and the Indians were ready to answer the bell against the Falcons, who won the CIF Southern Section Division IV title last season and are seventh in the latest Division III poll. Burroughs, which last beat Crescenta Valley in 2009, didn’t waste any time getting started.
Burroughs took a 1-0 lead in the third minute when Gerlach headed in a corner kick by Xavi Izqueta past Crescenta Valley goalkeeper Josh Cook.
“I got in there and was just trying to get a head on it and finish off the play,” Gerlach said. “That was a great corner from Xavi.
“We didn’t know what to expect coming into the game, but it was huge to get that first goal.”
The Indians extended their lead to 2-0 in the 15th minute when Gerlach made a nice cross to Nolberto Alcantar.
Crescenta Valley sliced the deficit in half on a goal by Pablo Sotillo in the 43rd minute. Chachi Shyan of Crescenta Valley lined a free kick at Burroughs goalkeeper Elliot Whitecotton, who made a diving save. Sotillo swooped in and beat Whitecotton off the rebound. Sotillo scored both goals for the Falcons in the first matchup against the Indians.
Crescenta Valley’s momentum would short circuit a minute later.
Gerlach found some open space and dribbled inside the goal box before making a nifty pass to an uncovered Alcantar to make it 3-1.
“That right there was the big goal,” Burroughs Coach Mike Kodama said. “We are up 2-0 and then it’s 2-1 with them coming at us.
“Brandon comes right at it. He was ready from the first minute. We had to stay focused because there’s a reason why Crescenta Valley is three-time league champion. I’m proud of the way we hung in there.”
Izqueta closed out the scoring in the 54th minute.
Crescenta Valley Coach Grant Clark said Gerlach provided the Indians with a new dimension.
“He brings a different aspect to their team with his speed and ball possession,” Clark said, “and I have to watch him again next year.
“We had some chances in the first half, including a shot off the [left] post by Erick Trejo that would have made it 1-1. We did what we wanted to by getting that goal early in the second half, but Burroughs responded with that third goal the way a good team should. We fell apart right there.”
Whitecotton finished with nine saves, including five in the second half. Cook registered four saves.
Crescenta Valley lost standout defender Matt Bracht to an apparent left-knee injury in the eighth minute. Bracht had an ice pack taped to his knee and left the venue on crutches.
The Indians have a home match against Arcadia on Tuesday before wrapping up league Thursday at Burbank. The Falcons have a road match against Pasadena on Tuesday before finishing up at home against Arcadia.