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Central Valley soccer earns another playoff berth
Central Valley High School's varsity boys soccer team clinched a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs with a 4-0 victory over upset-minded Weston Ranch in intermittent rain on Thursday in Ceres.

The victory eliminates third-place East Union from postseason contention and gives the Hawks (10-2-1) a one-point lead over second-place Ceres High in the Valley Oak League.

The Bulldogs (9-0-3) were supposed to play at Manteca last week, but the contest was rescheduled for today due to lightning.

"Our goal was to do better than last year's team," Central Valley sophomore defensive midfielder Larry Hernandez said. "And we did. It feels really good."

The Hawks dominated Weston Ranch without four normal starters, including offensive midfielder Jose Ramirez, forward Antonio Cabrera, sweeper Ricardo Reynoso and goalkeeper Francisco Aguirre.

Ramirez and Cabrera both missed the game due to yellow-card accumulation. They were replaced by Gerardo Cazares and Rene Beraza, respectively.

Reynoso (knee) and Aguirre (thigh) were sidelined with injuries.

Victor Mercado started in place of Francisco.

Twins Bobby and Billy Chantavong have platooned in Ricardo's absence the past couple of weeks.

"Today it was their opportunity to show what they had," head coach Omar Leon said. "They went all out."

Added Hernandez: "I'm not surprised. We have a lot of quality players."

Central Valley grabbed a 3-0 lead in the closing minutes of the first half when Larry's 25-yard, right-footed blast deflected off Weston Ranch goalkeeper Antonio Martinez's hands and into the goal. Cazares assisted.

Freshman striker Daniel Ochoa opened the scoring in the 12th minute when he fired a 10-yard shot into the left side of the net off a pass from Miguel Villasenor.

Senior forward Rene Beraza slotted a close-range shot past Martinez in the 26th minute. Ochoa delivered the pass.

Villasenor accounted for Central Valley's fourth goal. He scored from 8 yards out 25 minutes into the second half.

Central Valley players opted not to soak their head coach with ice water after the playoff-clinching victory because of the cold weather.

Senior Jaime Mendoza did spray Leon with Silly String.

"We decided to save it (celebration) for the Ceres High game," Hernandez said.

Leon has led Central Valley to the playoffs in each of his first two years at the helm. The Hawks just missed qualifying for the postseason in their first-ever varsity season.

"My biggest fear at the beginning of the season was I was going to have trouble bringing them together as a group because we lost so many seniors," Leon said. "But it happened. It's hard to believe."