Ceres High varsity boys soccer head coach Danny Barragan couldn’t stop smiling.
Veteran defender Saul Ruiz buried his face in his hands as he struggled to hide his emotions.
Barragan, Ruiz and the 2018-19 Bulldogs made history by claiming the program’s second Sac-Joaquin Section title.
Second-seeded Ceres High edged No. 4 East Union 2-1 in the Division-III finals on a chilly night at Ripon Christian High School last Thursday.
“It’s the best feeling in the world. I still can’t believe we won. The last two years, we didn’t even make playoffs.”Saul Ruiz
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Ruiz said. “I still can’t believe we won. The last two years, we didn’t even make playoffs.”
“Every game we’ve been down, we’ve come back to win,” said Barragan, third-year leader of the Bulldogs. “That’s what makes this team great.”
Ceres High improved to 20-1-4 overall and extended its unbeaten streak to 16 straight games.
The Lancers dropped to 20-7-2.
Ceres High and East Union both advanced to the CIF NorCal Regionals.
“This group listened,” Barragan said. “They were disciplined. There was chemistry. It (winning the section title) was a culmination of everything.”
Ruiz, a third-year varsity player, scored the winning goal with less than four minutes to play.
“I saw the time before I shot,” Ruiz said. “I put everything I had into the ball. I knew it was going in.”
The Lancers and Bulldogs traded goals late in the first half.
East Union struck first when Giovanni Padilla collected a pass from Gerardo Gallegos and slotted a shot past Ceres High goalkeeper Leo Trujillo.
Bulldog junior Pablo Duran scored the tying goal off a deflection four minutes later.
Ceres High won just a combined eight games the previous two seasons.
Prior to the start of the 2018-19 campaign, Barragan held a team meeting inside the school’s gymnasium.
“He showed us the championship banner from 2009-10,” Ruiz stated. “He told us we had what it takes to win one.”
“I’m not going to lie,” Barragan said. “The last two years, I questioned myself. I failed in a way. But I always believed in this group.”
“Everyone was dedicated,” Ruiz added. “We worked hard for it. Knowing that we’re going to be remembered as Ceres High’s best team, it feels amazing. Even after I graduate, I’ll come back and see the blue banner in the gym, and I’ll probably tear up.”