SOCCER PLAYOFFS: Reedley boys advance to D-I semifinals

Reedley boys scrap way to dramatic shootout win; Sanger boys’ season comes to an end with D-I home loss, Dinuba edges Orosi in D-IV, Immanuel edged by top seed in D-V boys quarterfinal contests

Reedley High’s Jair Sosa (13) chases after a ball while Central High’s Beto Rocha (17) falls to the turf during the second overtime period of the Pirates’ dramatic shootout victory over Central High in a Division I quarterfinal match at Reedley Soccer Complex on Feb. 16. (Jon Earnest)
Reedley High’s Jair Sosa (13) chases after a ball while Central High’s Beto Rocha (17) falls to the turf during the second overtime period of the Pirates’ dramatic shootout victory over Central High in a Division I quarterfinal match at Reedley Soccer Complex on Feb. 16. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published February 20, 2024  • 
11:00 am

REEDLEY – The Reedley High Pirates boys kept their Central Section Division I soccer championship dreams alive with a relentless late-match performance against an upset-minded Central High squad.

The second-seeded Pirates (18-4-3) looked to be in big trouble on Feb. 16 at Reedley Soccer Complex, playing a man down the entire second overtime period during a 1-1 deadlock because of a red card. But Reedley weathered the storm to force a shootout, prevailing 4-2 in the kicks to hold off the No. 10 seed Grizzlies (10-9-8).

Reedley’s reward is a Feb. 20 semifinal match against Bakersfield school Ridgeview High. The No. 6 Wolf Pack (20-4-1) knocked off No. 3 seed Sanger 1-0 on Feb. 23. The championship finals take place Friday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. at the highest seeded team (reigning champion Clovis North is the top seed).

Pirates coach Eric Velarde praised his team’s response, but said there was plenty of work still to be done.

“It wasn’t perfect and we’re not happy with the performance, but we’re happy to move on,” he said “(Central) came out with a fire and it was impressive. They disrupted us and we never really settled into the game.”

In the shootout, the heroes were numerous. Senior Jose Magallon started the scoring, and then Jason Serrano and Alexander Duarte sandwiched goals around a Central shot that caromed off the crossbar for a 3-2 lead. A Reedley shot that sailed wide gave Central a chance to tie but Reedley goalkeeper Joel Mendoza then came up big.

The sophomore, who had played in just two games this season, came off the bench for the shootout session and delivered a sparling save to his right.

“I always trust my gut, and the (first) two that they scored and I (tell myself) I should’ve trusted my gut because I knew to go that way and I didn’t,” he said. “Now, I’m going to go that way no matter what.”

The save set the stage for Abel Padilla to clinch the victory, and the sophomore did so by drilling home his shot. He raced to the corner of the field, where he was mobbed by his celebrating teammates who chased him down.

“I already knew I was going to score. I looked one way and knew which way I was gonna go before I even shot it,” he said. “With the red card, it was very tough for the team to be one man down. So more people had to do a lot, and even though (we were) tired, we gave it our all.”

Central rallied from an early deficit to tie the match in the first half, and kept the pressure on. Back in 2022, it was Reedley which was the lower seed going on the road to knock off the top-seeded Grizzlies en route to the Division I crown.

In other boys quarterfinal results on Feb. 16:

Ridgeview 1, Sanger 0

At Tom Flores Hall of Fame Stadium, the third-seeded County Metro Athletic Conference co-champion Apaches (15-6-3) were eliminated from the Division I playoffs by the No. 6 seed Wolf Pack, who scored in the 65th minute for the lone goal of the match.

Sanger collected a share of its fifth consecutive CMAC title, but for the second straight season the team was knocked off in the quarterfinals in a one-goal loss. The team will be sending on 14 seniors from this season’s squad, including top scorers Santana Mercado (23 goals) and Hezekiah De Leon (16 goals).

Dinuba 2, Oroai 1

Ar Dinuba High, the No. 4 seed Emperors (13-11) got a second half goal from David Garcia to blank the No. 5 Cardinals (18-7-2) in a Division IV matchup. Junior forward Garcia took a feed from sophomore midfielder Adrian Abarca and converted for the lone goal.

The victory advances Dinuba to the Tuesday, Feb. 20 semifinal against top-seeded and unbeaten Bishop Union (13-0-1). The Broncos have already dispatched of the Emps’ fellow West Yosemite League members Mission Oak and Lemoore on their way to the semifinals.

Woodlake 2, Immanuel 1

At Woodlake, the top-seeded Tigers (15-10-4) held off a solid challenge by the No. 8 Eagles (12-11-3), who continue to build up a full roster under coach Jon Zulik. Striker Franco Perez had the decisive goal for the hosts, who earlier in the week had defeated Orcutt Academy, 3-0.

Senior Talen Case and junior Romauldo Quintal had the Immanuel goals in a 2-0 shutout over No. 9 Yosemite High on Feb. 14 at County Line Stadium. Freshman Carter Zulikassisted on both scores.

Jon Earnest
Reporter