DOWNEY – Cate put the finishing touches on its second-straight CIF title on Saturday, using a superb style of possession-heavy soccer to hold down University Prep 4-1 in the Southern Section’s Division 7 championship at Warren High School.
Avery Schwartz converted three scores for the Rams to bring his playoff total to nine goals. The Yale-bound forward has scored 20 goals in 10 playoff games spanning his junior and senior years.
“The more important thing is that we won the championship. It feels good to repeat,” Schwartz said.
It took 24 minutes for the Rams to find the scoreboard. Ema Boateng brought the ball upfield and dumped off a pass to Schwartz at the top of the penalty area. Schwartz got briefly tangled up with a defender before breaking free. One more touch was needed to get around the Jaguars’ keeper and Schwartz knocked the ball into an open-mouthed goal.
Boateng found the back of the net himself in the 35th minute. Last year’s CIF player of the year assisted on Schwartz’s two second-half goals and almost had another for himself late in the game but was denied by the goal post.
Schwartz and Boateng are good enough to be playing at NCAA Division 1 programs next season.
“They’re very, very potent,” recognized Rams head coach Dave Mochel. “They’ve really worked this year at making super-solid connections between the two of them and you saw that some of those passes were just epic that led to the goals.”
Boateng is a junior-eligible player but is skipping his senior year to play for UCSB. He has been a huge part of Cate going 41-1-1 in the past two seasons.
“I thought we played really well especially in the first half,” Boateng said. “We just kept it to three touches. The game was really beautiful; I was really enjoying myself.”
Cate controlled the midfield and possession throughout the game and especially so in the first half. Until the second half, University Prep struggled to string together passes or create dangerous opportunities.
“In the first half we wanted to hold as much as we could just because they were pressuring us so hard,” said Jaguars head coach Sammy Lara.
The second half was better for the Jaguars, who saw leading goal scorer Oscar Bonilla add one more to his season total. The senior finishes with 41 in 20 games.
Bonilla was much more involved in the second half. He tested Cate goalkeeper Blake Wands on several occasions and broke through on his third good chance.
It’s the second straight year the Cate has beaten the Jaguars in the playoffs. University Prep lost in the semis last season before reaching the championship game for the first time in school history.
“Cate is a good team. We definitely competed better this year than we did last year,” said Lara. “Last year was more of a blowout, this year we hung in there with them.”
Cate added two more from Schwartz in the second half.
“Basically we played our game,” Schwartz said. “We kept possession well. We took our chances and played solid defense. That’s how it’s been all year.”
Mochel was pleased with his team’s performance.
“The first half especially, I told the boys at halftime, you can’t play soccer much better than that,” he said.
“We stayed right with our script. We played one, and two, and three touch soccer. We moved the ball around. We did everything we wanted to do so I’ve got no complaints.”
Senior captain Blake Wands protected Cate’s goal in both championship games.
“I feel that coming here a second time the nerves were a little bit higher because we have this expectation now that we’re in the finals again, to win again,” he said. “But I mean, we handled the nerves pretty well, and we played very well.”
Unlike last year, the season does not end here for Cate.
The Rams will keep their season going by competing in the CIF Regional tournament starting on Monday. The Rams learn their first-round opponent on Sunday.
“We know all the hard work that we put in every day, we’re just reaping the benefits from it,” Boateng said.