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Hawks finish top eight in Division-I playoff tournament
• CV boys soccer team puts up fighting before losing 3-1 to top-seeded Jesuit
Alexis Cervantes CV
Alexis Cervantes helped lead Central Valley’s boys soccer program to the quarterfinal round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-I playoffs this winter. - photo by Dale Butler

Central Valley’s eighth-seeded boys soccer team was looking forward to the challenge of facing top-seeded Jesuit in the quarterfinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-I playoffs last week. 

The Hawks showed flashes of excellence before losing 3-1 to the nationally-ranked Marauders on Feb. 13 in Carmichael.

“Going into the game, we were confident,” Central Valley head coach Horatio Garcia said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win. But we competed. I know the kids are disappointed just like I am. It hurts to see this group of kids wasn’t able to get that first section (soccer championship) banner for this school.”

Junior striker Alejandro Garcia accounted for the Hawks’ lone goal.

Central Valley goalkeeper Jesus Silva made three saves.

The Hawks fell behind 2-0 in the opening half as the Marauders scored on a header and converted a penalty kick.

“We were beat by a better team,” Garcia said. “We were surprised at how strong, physical and fast they were. We were at a disadvantage when it came to height. They played to their strengths. My kids tried their best. If I had to rate how we played, I’d give them a six out of 10.”

Central Valley put a major scare into Jesuit when Alejandro Garcia cut the deficit to one goal with 20 minutes to play.

“That gave us a little hope,” coach Garcia said. 

The Marauders sealed the victory in the 78th minute.

Jesuit capitalized after Central Valley changed its formation.

The Hawks used a second striker and one less defender as they attempted to secure a draw late in the game.

“We needed to go for the tie,” Horatio Garcia said. “It cost us a goal.”

Coach Garcia had a message for his upperclassmen players after their final game.

“I apologized to my seniors,” he said. “I didn’t give them the tools to win the game. We tried our best.”

Jesuit shut out fourth-seeded Oak Ridge 3-0 on Feb. 15 en route to advancing to Saturday’s Division-I title game. The Delta League champion Marauders (20-1-2, 10-1-1) are ranked 19th in the nation, fourth in California and first in the Sac-Joaquin Section according to

“We knew they were going to be good,” coach Garcia said. “They’re nationally-ranked. I wish we would have played them in the semifinals or finals. Hopefully, we see them again in playoffs next year.”

The Hawks had extra motivation heading into the playoffs.

Central Valley should have received a more favorable draw according to Garcia.

The Hawks won 20 games and claimed the Central California Conference championship during the regular season.

“The section disregarded our success,” he said. “We deserved better.”

Coach Garcia believes the Hawks would have made a deeper run in the playoffs had they received the No. 7 seed, which was awarded to eventual-finalist McClatchy.

Central Valley and McClatchy posted 4-0-1 and 1-2-2 records, respectively, against common opponents during the regular season. 

Central Valley collected wins against Patterson, Mountain House, East Union and Gregori, and tied Turlock.

McClatchy beat Gregori, lost to East Union and Turlock, and tied Patterson and Mountain House.

“To be honest, I don’t know what the section was looking at,” Horatio Garcia said. “No disrespect, but it doesn’t make sense. We played against some of the same teams. They had losses against common opponents. My team was better than two to three teams ranked ahead of us. It’s going to be motivation for the players coming back. We’ll play every single game as if it’s going to determine our ranking.”

Central Valley topped ninth-seeded Franklin of Elk Grove 3-1 in the first round on Feb. 9 at Johansen High School.

The Hawks compiled a 21-7-1 overall record and finished in first place in the CCC with a near-perfect 11-1-0 record this winter.

Central Valley claimed a league title for the first time under Garcia’s guidance.

“Other than us not making section finals, I’m happy with how everything turned out. From the very beginning, we knew we’d accomplish something great this year. We have a lot of quality players that have been playing together for many years. We’ll continue to work hard. That’s all we can do.”

The Hawks will lose 10 players to graduation, including Silva, Alexis Cervantes, Diego Covarrubias, Aaron Flores, Andres Guevara, Julio Larranaga, Victor Macias, Yahir Perez, Miguel Serrano and Gilbert Zamora III.

“I’m very thankful they were on the team this year,” commented Coach Garcia. “They made it (coaching) a great experience.”

Central Valley could return as many as 14 players, including Omar Alvarez, Ivan Cervantes, Diego De Jesus-Leal, Ariano Delgado, Alejandro Garcia, Damyan Garcia, Julian Huaracha, Enrique Lopez, Diego Ochoa, Artemio Ortiz, Adrian Serrano, Anantah Sivongxay, Ivan Velasquez and Tahte Yang.

The Hawks will compete in the new-look Western Athletic Conference as part of the section’s league realignment plan in 2024-25.

Central Valley won two titles during its four years in the CCC.

“This is the most fun I’ve had coaching,” said Horatio Garcia. “We met one of our goals this season, which was winning a league title. We haven’t done that in a few years. It’s very challenging to win a league title. It’s even more challenging to win sections. I’m looking forward to next season. We’ll see what happens.”

The Hawks have an all-time record of 0-7 in section championship games.

Central Valley plans to make program history on the biggest stage in the future.

“I know we’re getting closer,” coach Garcia said. 

Miguel Serrano and Central V
Miguel Serrano and Central Valley’s boys soccer team won one of two games in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-I playoffs this year. - photo by Dale Butler