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Cerritos, Gahr boys soccer have game, emotions all tied up

By Loren Kopff

The main story behind the Cerritos High boys soccer game with visiting Gahr High last Friday was neither the final score nor the fact that the Dons were hoping to extend its winning streak to an unprecedented seven straight games. The story of the game actually came from a third party, who had a say in the two goals that were scored in the contest, plus more.

With seconds remaining in stoppage time and following a red card issued to a Gahr player, Cerritos senior forward Manolo Cevallos received a free kick from junior defender Nathanial Wilt and booted in the tying goal which allowed the Dons to stay free of the loss column as the Dons tied the Gladiators 1-1. The red card came on the 29th foul that was issued by referee Victor Silva, something that did not set too well with Gahr second-year head coach Jose Garcia.

“I coach at Cal Poly Pomona, we just won the national championship and I come to see this and it’s…am I imagining this,” Garcia questioned.

He had a very good reason to be upset as Silva would blow his whistle 42 times to issue free kicks to both sides. In addition on several occasions, Silva had to momentarily stop the game to give explanations to both coaches as to why he issued some of the fouls that he did. It was also the fourth time in six games that Silva was a referee to a Gahr game.

“We’re running into a situation here where we’re getting referees that are obviously showing favoritism to other teams in the area,” said Cerritos head coach George Frousiakis. “It happens when we play our local teams and it happens when we play in league. We try to find a way to deal with it. When we come out here, we not only have to beat the other team, we kind of have to beat the referees as well. So we’re hoping to get beyond that and just play the best game that we possibly can.”

The Dons (6-0-1) had the game’s first chance to score when Cevallos sent a clear pass to no one through the center of the penalty box eight minutes in. Five minutes later, Cerritos senior midfielder Alex Florez and junior fullback Oscar Mijares worked a beautiful give and go before Florez tried to get the ball to Cevallos, but couldn’t. Sophomore defender Alejandro Hernandez ended up taking a shot that went off to the right of the net.

The Gladiators (1-2-3) were limited to five shots in the first half with the first legitimate chance coming in the 24th minute when senior midfielder Ronal Dhungel’s attempt was blocked at the right post by senior goalkeeper Cristian Morales. One minute later, Morales blocked a shot taken by senior defender Ernesto Lopez and seven minutes remaining in the half, senior forward Juan Alberto saw his shot at the left post blocked by Morales.

“There are no city rivals for us,” Garcia said. “This is a game as if we played against anybody. [Cerritos] took it as if it was a big rivalry. For us, it was more like any game.”

However, the game would change in a heartbeat and the emotions were intensified four minutes into the second half when Morales was issued a yellow card on a questionable call as he collided with a Gahr player at the edge of the penalty box. While the player landed just outside of the box, Silva ruled that the infraction took place inside the box, thus allowing junior midfielder Randy Rodriguez to take a penalty kick against backup senior goalkeeper Anthony Beltran. Rodriguez gave the Gladiators a 1-0 lead as his shot went to Beltran’s right.

“We all saw it and I think all of the fans saw it and I think the linesman saw it,” Frousiakis said. “He really wanted to raise his flag but was a little bit worried about what [Silva] was going to say. He was clearly outside of the box when [Morales] tackled the player. Maybe tackling the player outside the box and the position where he was in deserved a yellow card. That part I’m not going to argue. But the penalty [was] absolutely ridiculous. That should have never been a penalty.”

After that, Silva blew his whistle 20 times for Gahr fouls and seven more times against Cerritos, missing one in the 53rd minute when Gahr sophomore goalkeeper Bense Sandoval made contact with Cevallos in the box, but no foul was called.

“In the second half, it’s hard to play when every 30 seconds there’s a call from the referee,” Garcia said. “If you know about soccer, it cuts the rhythm of a game. So, you can’t even connect two or three passes if there’s a whistle being blown every 30 seconds. And out of those, 90 percent are their calls. There were 25 balls into the box because of made up fouls.”

Cerritos continued to put the pressure on Gahr’s defense the rest of the half and took seven shots on Sandoval as opposed to two Gahr shots. Then in the 69th minute, Gahr senior midfielder Joseph Martinez missed an open right side of the Cerritos net. After a frantic final 10 minutes of regulation plus the seven in stoppage time, which included the red card to the Gahr player plus one issued to a Cerritos assistant coach, Cevallos came through with his team-leading ninth tally.

“When Manolo scored the goal, it was a shear result of the hustle and the class that this team has in order to score a goal,” Frousiakis said.

“We were obviously the better team today,” he later added. “There’s no doubt about it. We controlled the ball more. We pushed the ball more. The only thing they had was they out-fouled us.”

Despite the tie, both teams are making great strides to put behind them several years of futility and frustration. Gahr has not had a winning record in eight seasons. But the Gladiators went 6-9-1 last season, the school’s best mark since going 7-10-4 in the 2008-2009 season. And Gahr won three games in the San Gabriel Valley League last season, ending four straight seasons without posting a league victory. The Gladiators have not made the playoffs since 2006

“Last year we were one win away from making the playoffs,” Garcia said. “This season, our priority is to get ready for league. There are not a lot of kids who play [club] soccer at the school. So we try to do our best with the kids that do play. This would have been a nice win because now we’re 2-2-2 getting ready for the Marina Tournament. That would have given us confidence. This is a good group of kids who I know that in the Marina Tournament will do well.”

Cerritos, on the other hand, is off to its best start since beginning the 2000-2001 campaign at 5-1-0. The winning streak is the longest since going 17-0-1 during a stretch in the 1999-2000 season. The Dons had gone 4-100-4 in the Suburban League before winning a pair of league contests and tying another last season. The six wins are already the most since the 2005-2006 when the team went 6-15-1 and the program has been absent from the postseason for 15 consecutive seasons.

“When you come from a school that’s been beaten up like Cerritos has in the past before I became coach here, you’re more concerned about doing well for the season,” Frousiakis said. “We’re not so much concerned with not losing any games; eventually games do get lost. I’m not putting that kind of pressure on my players, nor am I putting that kind of pressure on myself.”

Both teams will compete in the Marina Tournament beginning on Monday with Cerritos facing Orange High and Lakewood High in pool play action while Gahr tangles with Bonita High and Victory Valley High.