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Bulldogs advance to section finals
Placed on opposite sides of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoff bracket, Ceres High's and Central Valley's varsity boys soccer programs anticipated battling for the title.

After winning their first-round games at home on Tuesday, Nov. 11, the Bulldogs and Hawks hit the road for semifinal contests.

Ceres High, the Valley Oak League's No. 2 seed, punched its ticket to the championship game Thursday night with a 3-1 win over Pioneer Valley League champion El Dorado.

"We didn't win league but we have a chance to redeem ourselves by winning a section title," Ceres High first-year head coach Koeurn Phe said. "I'm just happy we were able to get this far. The competition we played wasn't easy."

VOL champion Central Valley saw its season come to an end Thursday afternoon with a 3-1 loss to Capital Valley Conference top seed River City.

"It would have been great for both of us to play for the section title, but it didn't happen," Hawks head coach Omar Leon said. "I can only wish them the best."

Luis Martinez broke out of a three-game scoring slump with two goals, sophomore Ramon Corona scored once and Kyle Cerny tallied 13 saves to lead the Bulldogs past El Dorado.

"We dominated the whole second half," Phe said. "They were getting frustrated."

Ceres High outscored El Dorado 2-0 after intermission.

Martinez converted a penalty kick and Corona scored on a breakaway.

"We played really well as a team," Phe said.

El Dorado's head coach received a red card late in the game. Several of his players received yellow cards.

"They lost their composure," Martinez said.

Luis accounted for the Bulldogs' first-half goal when he scored on a diving header. Pablo Gomez, the team's assist leader, set up the score.

Ceres High advanced to the section title game for the first time in program history.

"For us to be able to reach the finals, it's exciting for the town," Phe said. "We have something special here."

"Nobody else has done this before," Cerny said. "We're the first ones."

"We expected this," Martinez said. "We have a pretty awesome team."

Central Valley edged Ceres High 1-0 for the VOL title on Nov. 4 at Bulldog Stadium. The devastating loss served as motivation for playoffs.

"That pushed us to play even harder," Martinez said.

The Hawks' inability to finish early proved costly in their season-ending loss to River City.

"It could have gone our way if we capitalized on our chances," Leon said. "We dominated the first 15 minutes."

River City's goalie made several one-on-one stops within the first 15 minutes of play.

Billy Chantavong scored midway through the second half to cut the deficit to one.

River City held off Central Valley the rest of the way.

The Hawks entered the 2008 season with high expectations despite being hit hard by graduation.

Central Valley captured the VOL title and secured its second straight playofff berth in its three-year history.

"To me, the outcome was positive," said Leon, whose team compiled an impressive 17-3-2 overall record. "It's a learning experience for next year. We're looking forward to another great season."

Added Phe: "Central Valley should be proud of their season. They won league and came close to the finals too. They had a good run."

The Courier went to press Tuesday before the score from the section title game was available.