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Bulldogs, Hawks tie in first-place battle
Ceres High's and Central Valley's varsity boys soccer teams put their perfect Valley Oak League records on the line last week, and neither disappointed.

The Hawks and visiting Bulldogs battled to a scoreless draw in front of a large crowd and extra security on a gusty Thursday.

"It was like a playoff game," Central Valley sophomore midfielder Jose Ramirez said. "Both teams played with heart and really wanted to win. Unfortunately, it ended in a tie. We just have to wait until the last game of the season when we face each other again."

"Usually soccer games don't get this much attention," Ceres High junior goalkeeper Kyle Cerny said. "It was a great atmosphere. It was a lot of fun. It feels like a win for us because it's their field. We played good."

Central Valley (11-0-2) and Ceres High (9-2-1) extended their unbeaten streaks to 13 and seven games, respectively.

The Hawks and Bulldogs improved to 6-0-1 in conference play.

"This is the game we've all been waiting for," Ceres High head coach Koeurn Phe said. "Now it's over. I can relax and we can focus on playing against the rest of the VOL."

"If the both of us keep this up, we could make playoffs," Ramirez said.

The two teams combined for a host of fouls and five yellow cards.

"This is the most intense game I've played in," Bulldog forward Luis Martinez said. "I knew it was going to be close. We each controlled one half because of the wind."

Ceres High survived a barrage of Hawk shots in final 40 minutes. The Bulldogs were limited to several chances on offense after intermission.

"Our execution wasn't there," Phe said. "But I don't want to take anything away from Central Valley. They outplayed us in the second half. They had open shots. They were stronger than I thought. I didn't think their talent was that deep."

The Hawks had a golden opportunity to break the tie in the 25th minute of the second half. Central Valley junior forward Antonio Cabrera pulled his jersey up over his face after Cerny made a finger-tip save, his 11th of the game, on his 12-yard shot.

"Kyle basically saved us in the second half," Phe said.

Martinez almost scored when he lofted a 40-yard direct free kick over a wall of Hawk defenders in the final seconds. Francisc Aguirre punched the ball over the crossbar for his eighth save.

"I wanted it to go in but it didn't happen," Luis said. "Hopefully, we can beat them at our home."


Bulldogs, 5, Hawks 1

Ceres High's frosh-soph boys soccer team scored three times in the second half to pull away for a 5-1 victory over host Central Valley in a key VOL game on a windy day last Thursday.

"It wasn't pretty but we were able to do what we wanted to do," Bulldogs head coach Dominic Figueroa said. "We kept the ball on the ground and outworked them."

Alex Reyes, Fidel Yepez, Edgar Campos and Esteban De la Torre all tallied one goal for second-place Ceres High, which improved to 7-1 in the conference standings.

The third-place Hawks dropped to 5-3 in league play.

The Bulldogs led 2-1 at the break.

Ceres High benefited from an own goal. Reyes also scored.

Yepez, Campos and De la Torre helped Ceres High put the game out of reach with goals after intermission.

"We pretty much dominated," Figueroa said.

The victory kept the Bulldogs in the hunt for the VOL title. Ceres High remained one game behind first-place Sierra as of Monday.

Figueroa attributed his team's success to several things, including a rigorous offseason training regimen conducted throughout the summer.

"As soon as I saw what (varsity coach) Koeurn Phe had in place, I had a feeling this could be a good year," Figueroa said. "He's got a blueprint for how we want to win. Both of our teams are extremely, hardworking."

Asked what it meant to beat crosstown rival Central Valley in his first try, Figueroa said: "It felt awesome. Everybody was saying you better win this game."

Dominic is in his first year of coaching with the Bulldogs.

He's also a substitute teacher for Ceres Unified School District.