Spartans strike in last second

It would have been easy to count out the La Cañada High boys' soccer team on two different occasions in its regular season finale at Monrovia Thursday.

But Jeff Becker, a senior forward for the Spartans, wasn't going to accept a loss even after it looked like the Wildcats had sealed the Rio Hondo League crown when Monrovia's Arturo Ramirez scored off a corner kick five minutes into stoppage time to give his team a one-goal lead.

Most of the Wildcats began celebrating like the game was over, but Becker took the ensuing kick, raced down the field and worked his way around multiple defenders down the right side of Monrovia's box in a matter of seconds.

Monrovia's goalkeeper ran out to Becker, who had his back to the goal, to force a play. Becker was knocked down by a defender, but he fired a sidekick shot on his way down that went past the keeper and just crept inside the far post to tie the game at 3-3.

"I was pissed [about Ramirez's goal]," Becker said. "I knew it was our last chance so I just took it up and I just slipped through. I honestly didn't even see the goalie [behind me] because I got tripped up. I just saw the ball go in the general direction [of the goal] and then go in."

The referees blew the final whistle — multiple second-half injury delays created ample extra time — right after Becker's goal, as the Wildcats (18-7-4, 6-1-3 in league) walked off the field with their hands on their heads and the Spartans (13-5-5, 6-0-4) rejoiced when they felt defeated just seconds earlier.

"It just shows with 20 or 30 seconds left in the game anything can happen," La Cañada Coach Alex Harrison said.

The tie couldn't have felt more like a La Cañada victory as the draw locked up the Spartans' third straight league title outright and 22nd all-time.

"This year [winning league] was way more special I think because there was way more competition and we actually had to work for it," La Cañada's Armand Bagramyan said after the Spartans went 10-0 in league the previous two seasons.

Bagramyan scored La Cañada's other two goals as he led his team on an incredible comeback.

The Spartans went into halftime down, 2-0, and with just 10 men after their defender Austin Gartside was red carded for blocking a would-be Monrovia goal with his hand in the 36th minute.

Matt Partain got Monrovia on the board with a goal on the ensuing penalty kick.

Another penalty kick goal from Monrovia's Reed Miller four minutes later, after teammate Angel Martinez was fouled in La Cañada's box, gave the Wildcats a 2-0 cushion heading into halftime.

Bagramyan's first goal was set up by a steal deep in Monrovia's end by La Cañada's Marc Kaesler. Bagramyan took a pass off the turnover and shook a defender to get in the middle of the box and rifle a shot into the top left corner of the goal to cut the deficit, 2-1, seven minutes into the half.

Kaesler earned the Spartans another goal when he was knocked down in Monrovia's box after a La Cañada free kick. Bagramyan made it count again, scoring on the ensuing penalty kick to tie the contest at 2 in the 56th minute.

"We've had a lot of drama this year," Harrison said. "I wish we didn't have as much drama, but it's nice to win a game like this, it's hard to win a game like this. We knew it would be hard 11 on 11, but to do it 10 on 11 is just outstanding. I am so proud of these guys."

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