Central Valley High School's varsity boys soccer team found itself in an unfamiliar position heading into Wednesday's crosstown showdown with Ceres High.
The Hawks needed to beat the Bulldogs to keep their playoff hopes alive.
"We had to win today," Central Valley head coach Omar Leon said.
The Hawks defended their home field with an impressive 3-0 victory over Ceres High, which struggled to create scoring chances.
"We didn't think about playoffs," Central Valley attacking midfielder Andres Velasquez said. "We thought about the game. I knew we were going to win if we finished and didn't make any mistakes. Overall, we played a good game from goalkeeper to forward."
The fifth-place Hawks (4-6-0, 12 points) trail the fourth-place Bulldogs (5-6-0, 15 points) in the Western Athletic Conference standings.
The top four teams in the WAC will be awarded Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berths next month.
Central Valley has participated in the postseason eight years in a row.
"We haven't had a complete game all season until today," Leon said. "Hopefully, this is motivation to finish the season strong."
"We have to keep winning and hope that they lose," Hawks forward Angel Aguilar added.
Aguilar collected a game-high two goals.
Emmanuel Jimenez scored once.
Cristian Gonzalez and Enrique Garcia tallied three and two saves, respectively, while splitting play time at goalkeeper.
Ceres High goalie Martin Reyes had 11 saves.
The two teams committed a combined 16 fouls.
Central Valley exacted revenge for a 3-0 loss suffered at Ceres High on Sept. 28.
"It was embarrassing," Aguilar said. "It motivated us to do better."
Velasquez, formerly of Ceres High, provided a boost to Central Valley's lineup as he dished out two assists.
"Playing against his ex-teammates, he was very motivated," Leon said.
The Hawks dominated possession of the ball thanks to the play of their midfielders: Velasquez, Angel Lopez and Jesus Gudino.
"We didn't have him (Velasquez) the first game," Aguilar said. "It made a difference. We attacked more."
Leon spiked his hat and Central Valley's sideline erupted after Jimenez slotted a shot past Reyes from the left side of the field 13 minutes into the second half.
Emmanuel's goal gave the Hawks a comfortable 3-0 lead.
"I haven't done that in so many months," Leon said. "I had to get my stress out."
Central Valley outscored Ceres High 2-0 in the opening half.
Aguilar headed in Hawk teammate Jonathan Garcia's shot attempt in the 13th minute and slotted the ball just inside the right post in the 34th minute.
The Hawks could have led by more.
Reyes made a kick save on Aguilar's close-range shot in the second minute and Robert Perez fired a 20-yard left-footed shot off the crossbar in the ninth minute.
"No disrespect, but I knew we were going to win right from the first minute," Velasquez said. "The intensity was different. I felt no pressure. I always have faith in my team."
Barring upset victories by Central Valley and Ceres High, the two teams will in all likelihood face off for the third time in a play-in game for the WAC's fourth and final playoff berth.