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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW : Artesia boys soccer takes home second straight 605 League crown

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

The Artesia High boys soccer team is beginning to show it is the dominant team in the 605 League after two seasons. Entering its home game this past Monday evening against John Glenn High, the Pioneers were 17-0-1 in league action with 99 goals scored, 11 goals allowed and have blanked their foes 11 times.

On the other side of the field is a program that is beginning to turn the page after several seasons of staying at or near the bottom of both the Suburban League and the 605 League, Glenn has not had a winning overall record since the 2004-2005 season and had not had a winning league mark since the 2011-2012 campaign, which was also the last time the Eagles played in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs.

Artesia edged Glenn 2-1 to officially clinch the 605 League championship and coupled with a 2-1 win against Pioneer High this past Wednesday, will enter the postseason at 15-3-3 overall. 

“It’s always nice to win a league championship,” said Artesia head coach Octavio Marquez. “People and other teams always talk about how the 605 League is not a strong league and that. But we work hard, our kids work hard and obviously our goal is to win a league championship every year and move onto the playoffs and win a CIF championship eventually.”

The Eagles ended the regular season at 7-8-3 overall, including a 3-1 win at Oxford Academy this past Wednesday, but went 6-3-1 in the circuit. They needed Artesia to lose both games in the final week of the season while win out in order to grab a share of the league title.

“It definitely would have been something; a great thing for the program after a long time,” said Glenn head coach Hugo Enciso-Rojas. “The main thing is we told the boys now after so many years of not having competitive teams, is that the first step is we can’t think of a league title or a CIF championship right away. We start from the basics; the fundamentals and first learn how to compete, which is what I think we’ve done.”

Enciso-Rojas cites discipline on and off the field and work in the offseason as the reasons for the turnaround since he took over the program two seasons ago. The first real scoring chance by either team came 10 minutes in when Glenn senior forward Juan Galvan’s free kick bounced off the crossbar. Artesia sophomore midfielder Jose Gudino’s header off a free kick from sophomore defender Miguel Rodriguez in the 32ndminute ended the scoreless tie.

“The first half I thought was competitive,” Enciso-Rojas said. “I think we also don’t have a natural finisher up top and I think Artesia does. That kind of makes a big difference. But I told the guys we’re going to play with what we have; compete with what we have and try to play good soccer.”

“I give coach Hugo a lot of credit,” Marquez said. “I think he’s doing a good job with those kids as you can see. They don’t have very many numbers, but he has them playing hard. They’re scrappy, they have some talent and obviously today, it was 2-1. They fought to the end and with a couple of more minutes, who knows what could have happened.”

Both teams would have many chances in the early parts of the second half, but in the 60thminute, the Pioneers clinched the game when senior midfielder Jose Aguilar tacked on his team-leading 31stgoal, 14 coming in league play. Glenn’s lone tally came three minutes into stoppage time from senior defender Enrique Mayen.

For Artesia to win another league title considering what it has gone through earlier in the season is a side story. Marquez has had to remove nine players for various reasons who were on the opening-day roster. When Artesia began the season on Dec. 2 against Gahr High, there were 20 players on the roster. Against Glenn, there were 17, which included players called up from the junior varsity team.

“Obviously we have a lot of talent in our program,” Marquez said. “When we made those changes, a lot of these kids needed to step up and I think that’s what motivated them. A lot of these kids were going to get an opportunity to play. We’re young; we have three or four seniors and a couple of freshmen and sophomores who are getting a lot of experience this year, which is good for the future.”

In other boys soccer action, Norwalk High (14-4-1 overall, 5-2-0 in the Suburban League) travelled to Mayfair High on Feb. 6 with a chance to win the league. The Lancers, ranked fourth in Division 3, trailed Bellflower High by one point for first place with the Buccaneers facing last place Mayfair High.

La Mirada High finished the regular season at 12-7-3, 2-5-1 and fourth in the league. A Mayfair win on Feb. 6 would drop the Matadores to last place.

Valley Christian High wrapped up the regular season with a 2-1 win against Whittier Christian High this past Tuesday. The Defenders head into the playoffs at 14-2-3 overall, 7-0-1 in the Olympic League.

In girls soccer, Cerritos High has won all 20 of its 605 League games in two seasons after blanking Whitney High 5-0 this past Wednesday. The Lady Dons enter the playoffs at 12-4-3 overall. Whitney locked up third place with an overall mark at 14-6-0 and 6-4-0 in league.

For the first time since 2003, Gahr will advance to the playoffs. The Lady Gladiators (14-7-2, 6-4-0) shutout Paramount High 3-0 this past Wednesday in a battle for third place. Gahr is ranked ninth in Division 5 and have won 14 games for the first time since the 2002-2003 season.

La Mirada won another Suburban League title and took a 15-5-3 overall mark, 7-0-0 in league into its regular season finale against Bellflower on Feb. 6. Meanwhile, Norwalk (7-8-3, 2-4-1) was playing for third place when it hosted second place Mayfair on Feb. 6.

V.C., which had already won its third straight Olympic League championship, blasted Whittier Christian 12-0 this past Tuesday to end the regular season at 13-2-2 overall, 8-0-0 in league. The Lady Defenders are ranked third in Division 5.

The CIF-SS will release the soccer playoff brackets on Saturday with wild card games for the boys beginning on Monday and first round games on Wednesday while the girls begin on Tuesday (wild card) and Thursday (first round).