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Ceres High's and Central Valley's varsity boys soccer teams experienced unprecedented success last fall.

The Bulldogs made an appearance in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title game, amassed a 15-4-3 overall record and finished in second place in the Valley Oak League.

The Hawks claimed the VOL crown (the school's first team championship in any sport), advanced to the semifinal round of the playoffs and finished 17-3-2 on the year.

Both teams expect to do even better this season because they have a wealth of experience.

"The talent is there," Ceres High head coach Koeurn Phe said. "To me, it's a matter of me getting them focused. In my opinion, it's going to be twice as hard because teams are going to be more prepared for us. We do have a target on our back. In the long run, it's going to make us a better team."

"To me, every season is a new adventure," said Central Valley leader/2008 VOL Coach of the Year Omar Leon. "It doesn't matter how much talent you have. You can have 10 Cristiano Ronaldos (Real Madrid star). If you don't play as a team, nothing happens. We won't underestimate anybody."

The Bulldogs and Hawks return a combined 11 all-league players

Ceres High will be led by reigning Valley Oak League Most Valuable Player David Estrada (senior forward), first-team, all-conference recipients Luis Martinez (senior forward) and Kyle Cerny (senior goalkeeper), and honorable-mention selection Alejandro Castro (senior midfielder).

"That kind of talent doesn't come around too often," Phe said. "Their experience and leadership will be key."

Estrada scored 22 goals and dished out five assists as a junior. He's totaled 43 goals and 18 assists in three varsity seasons.

Martinez collected 17 goals and eight assists last season.

"It's a luxury to have two players that can't be ignored," Phe said.

Cerny, a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder, posted six shutouts, made 115 saves and allowed just 18 goals last year. He attended a week-long soccer camp at Cal Poly during the summertime.

"In my opinion, he's the best goalkeeper in this area," Phe said. "He has size, speed and great vision. He's very athletic. He really enjoys making stops."

Central Valley will be led by first-team, all-league performers Antonio Cabrera (senior forward), Daniel Ochoa (sophomore forward), Jose Ramirez (junior midfielder) and Bobby Chanthavong (senior defender/halfback), second-teamers Gerardo Cazares (junior midfielder/forward), Larry Hernandez (junior midfielder) and Billy Chanthavong (senior defender), and honorable-mention pick Trinidad Sandoval (senior defender).

Cabrera paced the Hawks a season ago with 13 goals and five assists.

Ochoa contributed 10 goals and four assists.

Ramirez had six goals.

Cazares totaled 11 assists and two goals.

Hernandez added three goals and three assists.

Central Valley and Ceres High combined for 21 wins, three losses and four ties while placing 1-2 in the Valley Oak League standings this past season.

The Hawks fell one win short of a section title-game showdown with the Bulldogs, who went on to lose 5-4 on penalty kicks to top-seeded River City.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see Central Valley and Ceres High make it to the finals this year," Phe said. "Both schools have the talent and tremendous experience. We just have to stay focused throughout the whole season. Every game counts."

"It could happen," Leon said. "It would be a great experience for the community."

A year ago at this time, Ceres High and Central Valley embarked on a journey that eventually culminated with historical finishes.

The Bulldogs and Hawks hope to reach new heights this year as they battle for supremacy.

"I really enjoy the rivalry between the two schools," Phe said. "I have a lot of respect for Central Valley's coaches and players. The support we received from the student body and administration was unbelievable. My hope is that one day the whole town will come to watch us play."

"I still think we should have more support," Leon said. "If we keep doing what we have been doing, we'll have a good turnout."