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CV, CHS boys have high hopes for postseason
Central Valley High School's varsity boys soccer program didn't lose a single game during the regular season.

The Hawks posted a 14-0-2 overall record, won the Western Athletic Conference championship (8-0-2) and earned a top seed for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

Crosstown rival Ceres High surprised a lot of people by contending for the league title and qualifying for the postseason. The Bulldogs managed to place third in the WAC (6-3-1) despite competing with a brand-new lineup.

Central Valley, Ceres High and six other teams will be vying for the Division IV crown this week. The Bulldogs defeated the Hawks 2-0 for the section title last season.

"If I could determine the future, I'd put Ceres High and us in the finals," Central Valley senior midfielder Jose Ramirez said. "We want to get them back."

The Hawks enter the playoffs with a near-perfect record. Central Valley captured its third straight conference title. The Hawks placed first in the Valley Oak League in 2009 and 2008.

Ramirez, Daniel Ochoa, Larry Hernandez, Gerardo Cazares and Hugo Contreras, five veterans, have all played major roles.

"Every single team that makes it to playoffs has something to offer," Central Valley head coach Omar Leon said. "I know we have what it takes to win. Winning everything would be great for the kids, school and me personally. It would be the completion of a cycle."

"We've made a name for ourselves," Jose said while talking about his team's success. "We're not the underdogs anymore. The pressure is on us. We have to keep working hard. The season is not over. We're starting a new chapter."

Ceres High will try to defend its section title. The Bulldogs beat the Hawks last year after losing 5-4 in a penalty-kick shootout to River City in 2008.

"To get there for a third time would be an amazing feat," Ceres High head coach Koeurn Phe said.

"They know what's at stake. We're building a reputation."

The Bulldogs struggled during the preseason. Ceres High compiled a 2-5-1 record.

"As we moved forward into the year, the kids improved," said Phe, whose team had a 5-1-1 mark seven games into the WAC season. "We peaked at the right time. In a way, I'm surprised."

Ramon Corona (striker), Cesar Hurtado (midfielder/striker) and Alex Reyes (defensive midfielder) have all emerged as leaders on this year's team.

"Those guys have really stepped up their games," Phe said.

"We lost a lot of talent," Ramon said. "You can't do nothing about it. You just have to move on with the players you have. I knew we were going to make it to playoffs no mater what. I have confidence in my team."

Will the Bulldogs and Hawks meet in the section finals for the second consecutive year?

"That would be awesome if we played them again," said Corona, who accounted for both of the Bulldogs' goals during last season's meeting. "It would be a good game."

"We want to prove something," Ramirez said. "That's what they did last year. We're in their position now. I wish them the best of luck until they play us."