Spartans shift gears

The La Cañada High boys' soccer team shifted into the elusive "second gear" it's been looking for all year during its first-round match of the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs against Nogales.

The consistent downpour Friday that didn't let up the entire game didn't slow down La Cañada (23-0-2) — the No. 1 seed in the division. The Spartans dominated Nogales (8-13-3) from start to finish and grabbed a convincing 9-3 victory at home.

Arash Mahboubi got the scoring started for La Cañada in the 10th minute. Mahboubi took a pass from Cameron Meeker a few feet away outside the top of the box, and without settling the ball, whipped a shot on goal. The ball ricocheted off the top crossbar and just past the goal line for the first goal of the game.

Eight minutes later, the Spartans scored again off a corner kick. Brian Blumenfeld headed the ball into the net off a nice pass from Matt Canatta from the corner, pushing the lead to 2-0.

Not long after, Canatta and Meeker scored goals of their own, two minutes apart, running the lead to a seeming insurmountable 4-0 advantage by the 27th minute.

Spartans Coach Barry Ritson was happy to see his offense playing up to its ability.

"We're getting there," he said. "That first-half performance from our front three — Matt Canatta, Armand Bagramyan and Cameron Meeker — was very, very good. They were sharp today."

Canatta finished the game with two assists and a goal. Bagramyan had two goals and an assist of his own. Meeker's four goals and two assists shined brightest through the game's rain clouds, though.

"We are finally clicking (on offense) and we just want to see how it turns out against really tough opponents," he said.

Meeker hopes the defense doesn't continue to let its guard down.

"We scored so many goals and I think we kind of shut down defensively, which is understandable. But we can't let it happen — especially moving forward into CIF," he said.

The defense might have regressed a bit in the blowout, letting Nogales find the back of the net three times. Two of the Nobles' (8-13-3) goals came on a penalty and a free kick.

Ritson isn't worried about the defense, though, even without senior defender Randy Gartside, who's out for the rest of the year with a knee injury.

"It's tough when you do go up by three or four goals to keep that level of concentration defensively. We just didn't have it, to be honest. The goals that we conceded were poor, but at the end of the day, we scored nine goals in our first playoff game and rested some kids, so I can't complain," Ritson said.

Canatta was one of La Cañada's starters who took advantage of the blowout win. He sat out the second half after playing through the first with a pulled groin.

"We gave him half a game just to ease him back into it," Ritson said. "He'll hopefully play a full game on Friday."

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