FAIRFIELD — Things didn’t go as planned for the Armijo High boys soccer team Thursday as the Indians fell 5-1 to Merced in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I quarterfinals at Brownlee Field.
Seeded 12th in the playoff bracket, Merced dominated the ball from the outset, keeping No. 4 Armijo (17-4-1) on the defensive for much of the first half.
The Bears (13-7-8) jumped on nearly every chance to score, going up 1-0 in the 15th minute when William Gomez converted on a breakaway for a 20-yard shot into the right side of the goal.
The attacks didn’t slow with Merced adding goals in the 18th and 21st minutes. First, Carlos Manzo bent a perfect corner kick into the middle of the box for the waiting Billy Thao to head in out of the reach of Armijo keeper Brandon Brimer.
Three minutes later, Izy Lor launched a chest-high throw-in from the left sideline to Meng Moua, who executed a precision bicycle kick into the left corner for a 3-0 lead.
The slow start was hardly in character for an Armijo team that came from behind to overtake Vintage in the final week of regular season play to claim its second straight Monticello Empire League championship.
But that run may have taken its toll.
“Competing with Vintage all year, coming from behind, doing all the things that we needed to do mentally every day, day in, day out to win that championship I felt like, as soon as we had that – it wasn’t that they were satisfied, it was just that it was mentally exhausting to get there,” said Indians coach Brad Burzynski. “You could tell last game on Tuesday that we were a little bit tired, we didn’t have our legs, we weren’t talking, we weren’t moving to the ball.”
That carried over into Thursday’s start, but late in the half, the Indians did find their game and played the Bears evenly the rest of the way.
Burzynski was also quick to credit Merced for playing with such urgency.
“They ran toward the ball in the first 20 minutes like it was the last 10 seconds of the game and they needed that goal, and unfortunately we couldn’t muster up that energy today,” he said
Just two minutes into the second half, Merced ran the lead to 4-0 on Manzo’s second goal, a 35-yard laser into the right side.
Armijo’s Brimer didn’t have a bad day in the net, collecting seven saves. Most of Manteca’s goals were nowhere near him.
In the 59th minute the Bears added their final goal when Moua brought the ball down the right side and crossed it into the advancing Lor, who ran it right into the net, just to Brimer’s left.
Still fighting for anything they could get, the Indians finally converted in the 65th minute when Brian Galvan blasted a 23-yard shot into the right side of the net past the diving Merced keeper.
Armijo had another great chance two minutes later, but Jacob Less’ sliding shot at an open net glanced harmlessly off the right post.
Burzynski said he was proud of his guys for defending the MEL crown despite having just two starters return this season.
“I loved what my goalie said today. He said, ‘Hey guys, today we played good, they just played great,’ ” Burzynski said.
Manteca 2, Vanden 1: At Manteca, the Vikings (11-5-4) trailed 2-0 until the end, when they got their lone goal from Alvaro Rubalcaba in the 80th minute.
“It was a tough game,” said Vikings coach Oren Rosenmann. “They played their hearts out. We played hard. I think we outplayed them, but we just couldn’t score goals. Their goalie was making phenomenal saves.”
Vanden dominated the second half, outshooting Manteca 6-3, Rosenmann added.
Vanden goalie Antonio Ramirez had two saves in the first half.
Vacaville Christian 2, Faith Christian 0: At Yuba City, the No. 6 Falcons ran their win streak to six games, knocking off No. 3 Faith Christian Thursday in the Division VII bracket.
Brent Williams opened things up for VCS (9-7-2) with a ninth-minute goal off a corner kick for his first goal in four years on the varsity squad.
Jeremy Rico followed with a goal in the 10th minute off an assist from Matt Burnett.
Stephen Gloudeman had seven saves in goal for the Falcons, and he ran his streak to five shutouts in a row.
Brad Baum and Michael Gloudeman, Anakin Ueng and Conner James also played well on defense.
The midfield also contributed on defense with Sean Patton, Andrew Bliek, Williams and Andrew Grabowski playing well.
Vaca Christian now hosts either Victory Christian or Trinity Prep on Wednesday.