The deafening roar and frantic flag waving coming from the stands at L.A. Cathedral High on Thursday night after a second-half goal by freshman Diego Barahona tied the game against Loyola made it perfectly clear that this soccer match was unlike any other played with a backdrop of downtown Los Angeles’ skyscrapers glittering from above the scoreboard.
When the game finally ended and Loyola had pulled out a 2-1 victory on a goal off a header from senior Sean Traylor, the emotions came pouring out. While Loyola players hugged and hollered, Cathedral players fell to the ground in stunned silence. Some cried; others knelt trying to deal with defeat in the Southern California Regional Division I semifinal playoff game.
These two all-boys Catholic high schools located five miles apart were playing in the the unofficial “Downtown L.A. World Cup.” Their alumni and students constantly debate which school has the best night view of the L.A. skyscrapers.
Rene Diaz, a Cathedral soccer player who also attended the football game at Loyola this season, said, “Obviously us. Their school is much closer. We get to see the whole skyline and we’re more on top of a hill.”
Their soccer programs had never met in a playoff match and rarely have met.
“Back in the day, they wouldn’t play us,” said Cathedral co-coach Arturo Lopez, who arrived in 1996.
Loyola is a five-time Division 1 champion. Cathedral won Division 3 and 4 titles, then moved up to Division 1 two seasons ago. This year was the first time they scheduled a regular-season game and it ended in a 0-0 tie.
Loyola is the oldest school in Los Angeles, having opened in 1865. It moved to its Venice Boulevard location in the Pico-Union district in 1917 and is run by the Jesuits. Its student body of more than 1,200 boys attracts families from the Westside, Pacific Palisades, the South Bay and Pasadena, among other areas.
Cathedral opened in 1925 on the site of the Old Cavalry Cemetery and is near Dodger Stadium. It has a student body of more than 700 and is 85% Latino, with students from 51 different zip codes. It’s run by the Christian Brothers. Both have loyal, influential alumni from around Southern California who love their soccer.
After Aidan Cuevas scored a goal for Loyola 11 minutes in, his 33rd of the season, Cathedral fans were quiet. Then the second half started, and the Phantoms became more aggressive. Twice Loyola goalie Nick Barr-Mira had to make fantastic one-handed deflections. Then he stopped a free kick, and Cathedral seemed doomed.
Barahona scored from 30 yards away to tie the game at 1-1 with about nine minutes left. Traylor’s header with about three minutes left won it for Loyola.
Cathedral’s Alejandro Lugo, the team’s top scorer, played even though his father died in the morning. Twice in the second half, shots by Lugo barely missed reaching the net. Afterward, he was shaking hands with Loyola players and walked off emotionally drained.
“It was very intense,” Barr-Mira said. “It was very fun. Cathedral is such a great team.”
Loyola will play at San Clemente on Saturday in the regional final.