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CIF-SS DIV. VI BOYS SOCCER PLAYOFFS : John Glenn’s playoff drought ends with rare postseason victory, blanks Lennox Academy

John Glenn High senior midfielder Juan Galvan battles for possession with Jonathan Bonilla of Lennox Academy in this past Monday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 6 wild card game. Glenn blanked the Panthers 4-0 to earn the program’s first postseason win since 2012. Ironically, that was the last time Glenn had reached the playoffs. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

The John Glenn High boys soccer program hasn’t had much history in the postseason since the school was founded in 1962. Before this season, Glenn had made 11 trips to the CIF-Southern Section divisional playoffs, winning just twice in 13 games.

The Eagles last made it to the playoffs in 2012, first beating Burbank High 2-1 in double overtime in a wild card affair before falling to Saddleback High 3-2 (5-4 in penalty kicks) in the first round. Now, this season’s team is setting a new standard by shutting out visiting Lennox Academy 4-0 this past Monday evening in a Division 6 wild card tilt.

“It’s what I’ve been telling the boys,” said Glenn head coach Hugo Enciso-Rojas. “Last season, we were also not too far away from the playoffs. I know this was our first goal ever since I took over the program; to make the playoffs. Not win CIF, but just make [the] playoffs, and then take it one step at a time. I’m really happy for them because now they know what it feels like to play a CIF game. Now they know what it feels like to win. So, we hope that they keep chasing that feeling and that they set the example for the future generations.”

Glenn’s first playoff win came in 1985 following four consecutive playoff losses from 1975-1984 and the program had been outscored 34-6 in its first eight playoff games. But against the Panthers, who finished in third place in the Coastal League, the Eagles went to work early in the second half.  After a scoreless first half that saw Glenn take just four shots on goal, with the best chance coming in the 14thminute off the foot of junior midfielder Sergio Velez, senior midfielder Juan Prudencio’s attempt five minutes into the second half sailed off to the right.

But five minutes later, and amidst a mad scramble in front of Lennox Academy’s Mauricio Munoz, senior defender Felix Perez found paydirt while on his back to make it 1-0. A minute later, Velez crossed a nifty pass to junior forward Edgar Ramirez and his header made it 2-0. Building off the sudden momentum, senior defender Enrique Mayen made it 3-0 in the 53rdminute.

“Even though we did dominate, I don’t know if it was sluggish as much as the first CIF game jitters,” Enciso-Rojas said of the first half. “I think we were attacking, but we lacked the clarity in the last third and fourth of the field. I told the boys at halftime, ‘I think we are the better team. Now we have to get rid of the nerves, and I’m glad you guys are nervous because it means you care’.

“Again, I think the nerves kind of distracted them from playing the way they normally play,” Enciso-Rojas later said. “A little bit more of a combination playing, and that got us there. And then set pieces were key, too. We worked hard on set pieces and in games like this, it makes a big difference.”

Glenn clearly dominated the second half, taking 13 more shots and when the game had concluded, the Eagle had outshot the Panthers 17-4. Freshman midfielder Christian Mendez capped off the scoring in the 70thminute to keep Glenn’s season-long balanced scoring attack going. With only 12 players plus two goalkeepers, nine players have found the back of the net this season, led by Ramirez, who now has seven goals. Even more impressive has been the tandem play of the two goalkeepers-sophomore Jimmy Torres and freshman Andrew Barragan, both of whom saw action in the contest. The two have combined for five shutouts this season and the Eagles have allowed 31 goals in 19 games entering this past Wednesday’s first round game at Ganesha High.

“They’ve been pretty even,” Enciso-Rojas said. “Throughout the season, we’ve started Jimmy and Barragan, who’s really talented, but also just a freshman. I trust both of them equally. It’s just that Jimmy came up with the flu over the last two weeks and he missed two or three games. We tried to start Andrew, who was in better rhythm, and then we put Jimmy in there to close out the first half and start the second.”

Glenn, which improved to 8-8-3 after the win, has not had a winning campaign since its last trip to the playoffs. In the 2011-2012 campaign, Glenn finished 8-7-4 and came in third place in the Suburban League. The Eagles finished in second place in the 605 League, which is the highest league placing since sharing the Suburban League crown in the 2001-2002 season. Glenn’s dream season would come to an end after falling to Ganesha 6-0.

“We kind of expected to get a little bit of a better seeding if we won this game,” Enciso-Rojas said. “But there’s no question that boys now are up for the challenge. They’re already doing their research. I think that team beat Artesia in the preseason [1-0] and I told them, ‘well, there you go, that’s soccer and we very well could have very easily beat Artesia, too’. Now, we have to take advantage of the momentum we have.”