With three teams from the area (plus the Buena girls) playing for championships, it would have been fantastic to see the CIF stage the four games at UCSB’s Harder Stadium.

Remember last year’s Division 2 final at UCSB? There were 8,000 people in the stadium.

Oh, well. Saturday still will be a special day for local soccer on the turf field at Warren High in Downey. Cate is playing for its first title in history; Carpinteria seeks its second and Santa Barbara looks to add a seventh star to its jersey.

Here is a preview of Saturday’s championship games, listed in the order of game times:


Carpinteria (20-3-3) vs. Baldwin Park (19-3-2), Noon kickoff: Third-year coach Daniel Torres has restored the glory of the program at Carpinteria. The Warriors are in the final for the first time since 2004. They won the title in 1999 when Torres’ brother, Vicente, was the team’s goalkeeper.

“Focus” is the mantra Torres has instilled in the players and they haven’t let him down. Led by precocious freshman playmaking midfielder Johnny Requejo and superb finisher Ismael Soriano (27 goals), the Warriors finished on top in a tough Tri-Valley League and prevailed in some tough playoff games — a shootout win at Arroyo Grande and a double-overtime victory over top-seeded and undefeated La Cañada.

What’s especially impressive about Carpinteria is the play of its sophomore-dominated defense. Genaro Hurtado spearheads a skilled, steady, organized back line, and Erik Rojas has played clean in goal.

Baldwin Park is perennial power in the San Gabriel Valley. The Braves, who graduated 10 starters last year, are in the finals for the second time in four years. The beat two strong programs in the quarterfinals and semifinals, Los Amigos (1-0) and Animo Leadership (2-1 in overtime).

Led by midfielders Christian Rodriguez and Juan Morales, the Braves play attacking soccer and are capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. They also have an outstanding goalkeeper in sophomore Dakyer Villalobos. He played huge in the win over Los Amigos, coming up with 13 saves.

Prediction: The game figures to be played at a frenzied pace. Carpinteria’s defense will make the difference: Carpinteria 1, Baldwin Park 0.


Cate (21-0-0) vs. Mammoth (21-2-3), 2:30 p.m. kickoff: This is a battle between the top two seeds in the division.

Except for 3-2 overtime win over a very good Lennox team, the No. 1 Rams have romped through the playoffs to make their first CIF Finals appearance. (Dunn is only Condor League school to win a CIF soccer title in 2006).

Cate’s strength is up the spine of the field, starting with goalkeeper Blake Wands and continuing with center back Joshua Yaro, defensive midfielder Jackson Mauze, attacking midfielder Ema Boateng and forward Avery Schwartz.

Boateng is the engine. A fantastic dribbler with great vision, he’s a high school version of  Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. Schwartz, who also plays on the outside, is a battler and lethal finisher. Yaro gives Cate tremendous athleticism and skill in the back. He’s a big reason the Rams have allowed only seven goals this season.

Yaro passed up playing in the U.S. Youth Soccer ODP Championships (he’s on the 1994 Region 4 team) this weekend in Phoenix to help Cate win its first CIF championship in soccer.

The Cate defense will be tested by one of the highest scoring teams in the Southern Section. Mammoth’s goal scoring doesn’t quite match the mountain town’s snowfall count but it is impressive. The Huskies have poured in 152 goals, with an amazing 20 players putting their names on the stat sheet. Emilio Flores is the leader with 36 goals, and Hector Villapando is not far behind with 30.

The Huskies are probably the most-traveled team in the Southern Section.   During their playoff run, the made long treks to Nuevo (near Perris Lake) and Malibu, which counted for nearly 30 hours of travel time.

Prediction: This game has the potential to be a goal-fest: Cate 6, Mammoth 3.


Santa Barbara (20-5-3) vs. San Clemente (16-6-6), 7:30 p.m. kickoff: After graduating most of last year’s starters from the Division 2 championship team, the juniors from that squad have stepped up in their final year to lead the Dons into the Division 1 final. The team got off to a slow start, losing three of its first four matches, but things started to click against Mountain View and San Clemente — two CIF playoff teams — at the UCSB College Cup Showcase in mid December. The defense came together in 0-0 and 1-1 draws.

The Dons hit their stride in a dominating 3-0 win over Ventura and have been on fire ever since. They’ve won two golden-goal overtime games on the road and a penalty-kick shootout in the semifinals to reach the eighth final in program history — they have six stars on the jersey for the number of titles won.

Unlike last year’s team that had a two players score the majority of the goals, the scoring is evenly distributed on the squad. Junior Alfredo Ibarra leads the team with 10 goals, two assists. Senior center back Tony Alfaro has eight goals, four assists, senior forward Edgar Ruiz has seven goals,four assists and senior central midfielder Sanford Spivey has six(four in the playoffs) and four assists.

“As you can see no one player is lighting up the scoreboard for us, we’re a very well rounded team which makes it difficult for the opposing team to key in on one player,” said coach Todd Heil.

After 23 years at the helm, coach Steve Pronier has San Clemente in its first final. “If you stick around long enough, something good is going to happen. It has been 23 years (coaching the team) of hard work, but it’s the kid who constantly have to do all the work,” Pronier told OC Varsity after the Tritons beat St. John Bosco in overtime in the semifinals. “I am just glad that I finally got a group that wanted to push through this.”

The Tritons are led by forward/attacking midfielder Steve Palacios, who has committed to Cal Poly. He’s scored and assisted on a goal in the last three playoff games. He scored the game-winner in the semifinals.

San Clemente’s top goal scorer is forward Tom Wiechert, a long and lean senior forward with 18 goals. He snapped out of a scoring slump with a game-tying goal in the semifinals.

“They are tall, athletic and technically very good,” said Heil of the Tritons. “One of the challenges we face is matching up with them height-for-height on set pieces.  They did get their goal against us on a corner kick.”

Prediction: If the Dons can contain Palacios and not give up set pieces in the attacking third, they can add another star to the jersey. Santa Barbara 1, San Clemente 0.


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