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CHS boys advance to semifinals of Division-III postseason tourney
Bulldogs collect pair of victories
Ceres High varsity boys soccer players file through a tunnel formed by their fans following last weeks 5-2 win over American Canyon in the playoffs. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Trailing 2-1 and facing elimination, Ceres High School's varsity boys soccer team mounted a memorable comeback.

The seventh-seeded Bulldogs scored four goals in a 13-minute span while pulling away for a 5-2 win over No. 10 American Canyon in the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoffs on Tuesday, Nov. 5 in Ceres.

"It's my senior year," Ceres High veteran Tomas Rocha said. "I didn't want us to get knocked out. Revenge is our main goal. We plan on meeting and beating Central Valley in the finals."

Rocha collected a game-high three goals against the Wolves (9-14-2, 7-7-1 Solano County Athletic Conference).

Cris Torres tallied one goal and one assist.

Emmanuel Toledo scored once.

Abel Reyes had nine saves.

Ceres High found itself in a 1-1 tie at the break despite dominating.

Rocha's left-footed shot bounced off an American Canyon defender and rolled into the goal in the sixth minute.

American Canyon's Edwin Padilla converted a penalty kick in the 35th minute. Reyes guessed right when he slid to his left. The ball deflected off Abel's hands and sailed into the back of the net.

The Bulldogs exploded for four unanswered goals after falling behind.

Rocha scored in the 61st and 74th minutes.

Torres and Toledo thrilled Ceres High fans with goals in the 66th and 72nd minutes, respectively.

The Bulldogs battled back from a 3-0 deficit and salvaged a tie with Patterson in Western Athletic Conference play on Oct. 22 at Bulldog Stadium.

"Their defense was slow," Bulldogs head coach Javier Mercado said. "We didn't take advantage until the second half. We stuck with the game plan and kept attacking. I'm not surprised we came back. We did it against Patterson. But I didn't expect us to score so many goals so quick."

Rocha and Torres couldn't help but smile as they watched from the sidelines after the Bulldogs put the game out of reach.

The quick turnaround was stunning.

"Our chemistry started getting better and better," Rocha said. "We started communicating, touching the ball and executing more. We didn't give up. We're a comeback team."

"Their confidence level is going to go up again," Mercado added.

Bulldog supporters formed a tunnel for Ceres High players to run through after the game.

On the brink of losing in the first round, the Bulldogs avoided elimination. It was a comeback for the ages.

"We were frustrated," Mercado said. "You lose, that's it. The seniors don't want the season to be over. They want a shot at the title. Every game is going to be tough to win."

Added Rocha: "I wasn't nervous. I was frustrated. I had to keep my cool. When we play calm, we can make things happen."

Ceres High will travel to Sacramento to face third-seeded Christian Brothers in the semifinals today.

The Bulldogs knocked off No. 2 Oakdale 3-1 in a penalty-kick shootout during the quarterfinals on Thursday.

"I don't see it as an upset," Mercado said. "We should have won the game in regulation. We got a really talented team. You can't look at the seeding sometimes. Anyone can beat anybody."

Reyes, Ceres High's starting goalkeeper for the past five games, blocked three of the Mustangs' four PKs. He totaled 10 saves during the contest.

"Abel's tall," Mercado said. "His reach is almost to the posts. That's a big advantage in PKs. I was confident in him. He loves to play the position."

Torres, Nicolas Martinez and Adrian Espinoza converted penalty kicks for the Bulldogs.

"We've worked on PKs all year long," Mercado said. "They're very comfortable in that position. I could see it in their eyes. They were confident."

Ceres High and Oakdale battled to a 2-2 tie during regulation, which consisted of 80 minutes. Two, 10-minute periods of overtime were also played. "We don't want our season to end," Mercado said. "That's what's driving us. We just want to make it to the finals and win it. It doesn't matter who we play against. We want to bring another title back to Ceres. We're can't overlook our next opponent. They have a really good team. We have to be perfect in all areas."

Added Rocha: "I believe in my team."