|La Salle Prep|
The La Salle Prep boys soccer team emerged with a 2-1 win over Centennial in a clash of No. 1 teams Tuesday night.
Deadlocked at a goal apiece each side took turns hunting a winning shot.
Centennial had the first few chances when Aye Doh Chan swiped a ball near the sideline and made a quick move down the right side only to be bumped off the ball by La Salle's Wade Nichols before he could turn toward the goal.
Upon the restart, Centennial's Andrew Martinez booted a high ball the width of the field, and teammate Jonathan Ventura sent a quick relay into the middle. Centennial's Angel Santiago Garcia ran onto the ball and hammered a low strike from 35 yards out that sent La Salle goalie Quinton Castner to his knees to make the stop.
"Coach told us at halftime to keep the pressure up and put the ball on target," Ventura said. "We put everything we had into those last minutes, but unfortunately we couldn't get it."
The next set of attacks belonged to the Falcons, culminating with Aidan O'Brien finding space out of the midfield and striking a left-footed blast high toward the far past from more than 40 yards out.
"I had space. I just had to get the ball off my foot fast," O'Brien said. "We had guys in the box, and I know there are a lot of guys on this team who can get up and win balls in the air."
On the other end stood Centennial goalie Dennis Bessarab alongside La Salle striker Nichols.
"I saw the ball coming, and I knew I had it," Nichols said. "I just had to get up higher than the goalie and flick it past him."
And that is how it played out with Nichols redirecting a header into the goal for the winner with 5:58 to play.
But Centennial was not done.
Less than a minute later, the Eagles earned a corner kick in their attacking zone and packed eight blue shirts into the 18-yard box. La Salle managed to clear away the dangerous chance without Centennial getting a touch on the ball.
Centennial got another look when Miradi Tanzambi beat his defender and hit a roller to the near post only to see Castner come across and scoop up the save.
The Eagles tried again with Chan sending a cross to the front of the goal where Martinez was able to get a head on the ball only to have Castner be in position for the save once again.
With the clock dipping under a minute to play, La Salle's Luke Strange ran onto a loose ball in the middle of the defensive zone and cleared it to the far corner flag. More than 30 seconds came off the clock before Centennial returned across midfield.
"I had made a bad pass and wanted to get the ball back," Strange said. "It came to me in the middle of the field where I had a lot of space, and I just got it out."
The Eagles managed to get off one last desperation shot, a blast by Jair Diaz Navarro from about 40 yards out that sailed wide of the mark.
"This was 1 versus 1, and we wanted to prove ourselves," Nichols said.
"This one felt like a quarterfinal or semifinal playoff matchup," Centennial coach Todd Saks said. "It sucks to come out on this side of it, but it's a learning experience."
Nichols scored midway through the first half, assisted by Strange, to give La Salle a lead it would hold to the other side of intermission.
Play intensified in the second half with players from each side being issued yellow cards just minutes apart.
Centennial found the equalizer with 20 minutes left when Garcia and Noel Perez Beltran combined on a series of passes that moved the ball deep down the right side. Beltran was taken down from behind inside the 18-yard box, and teammate Navarra went low right with the ensuing penalty kick to knot the score.
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