BSoc: Conteh leads Dunn past Laguna Blanca for CIF title

Laguna Blanca's goal scorer Damien Nunez, tries to get the ball away from  Dunn keeper Shannon Carroll during  Friday's first half.

Laguna Blanca’s goal scorer Damien Nunez, tries to get the ball away from Dunn keeper Shannon Carroll during Friday’s CIF Division 7 championship soccer match.

There were no surprises in Friday’s CIF Division 7 boys soccer championship match as Condor League rivals Laguna Blanca and Dunn met for the third time this season.

Dunn standout Sahid Conteh stepped up and made two huge plays that resulted in goals, and the Earwigs withstood a furious Laguna Blanca comeback attempt and pulled out a 2-1 victory before a good crowd at San Marcos High’s Warkentin Stadium.

The title is Dunn’s first since 2006. Laguna Blanca was playing in its first CIF boys soccer final.

The shifty Conteh, who is blessed with tremendous speed, went at an unsettled Laguna Blanca defense on a counterattack before laying the ball off for fleet-footed Rodney Michael, who beat two defenders on the dribble and scored at the near post for a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute.

The Earwigs (13-3-2) maintained that one-goal advantage until Conteh made his second big play of the match. In the 57th minute, he intercepted a Laguna Blanca throw-in at midfield and broke in on goal for a 2-0 lead.

“I anticipated he was going to tbrow it to his guy in the open space,” Conteh said. “I just read the whole play, anticipated and decided to attack that space.”

It was a big blow to Laguna Blanca, which was controlling the possession and had three quality shots on goal prior to the turnover.

“He’s our captain, he’s the backbone of the team,” Dunn coach Mark Geriak said of Conteh, a sophomore from the West African country of Sierra Leone. “He’s the reason why we’re great. He leads us into these special places where we’re at right now. His hunger and appetite for the game is incredible. We were not going to lose this game because of him.”

“He’s a special player,” Laguna Blanca coach Daniel Torres said. “He got that chance and he put it away, and that’s what great players do.”

The Owls, who rallied from a deficit in the semifinals, fought back and scored in the 60th minute. Ethan Tyng drove the ball on the right side of the penalty area and fired a shot on goal. Dunn’s goalkeeper Shannon Carroll bobbled the ball and Damien Nunez rushed in and knocked the loose ball into the net.

Laguna Blanca (14-2-3) pushed hard to get the equalizer. Their chances included Tyng’s flick header going wide; Ben Rios receiving a cross from Tyng in the box and having his shot blocked; Ryan Bickett ripping a shot that was bobbled and saved by Carroll and Nunez hitting a shot into the upper corner of the goal that was snared by Carroll.

“I thought the second half, aside from that mistake we made, we played a pretty good half,” Torres said. “We were going at them. We had plenty of chances but we just couldn’t convert. That’s just the way soccer is: If you don’t convert, you don’t win.”

“Laguna played great,” Geriak said. “That was the best I’ve seen them all season. They knocked the ball around the field well. It was gutty performance by them.”

The Earwigs did a good job of preventing midfielder Ryan Bickett from hurting them with his right-footed cannonball blasts.

“I was getting double teamed and knocked around most of the time,” said Bickett.

Forward Cooper Farrell and Bickett said the Owls might have been too jacked up at the start of the final.

“That’s what I told the boys before we came out,” Bickett said. You can’t be too energetic. We can’t come out on super fire because they’re going to capitalize on our mistakes. We had one mistake early in the game and they fired one in the net and we were chasing.”

Said Farrell: “We were really pumped up coming into the game and everyone got in their heads that we could win. I think it was a little too far in our heads, maybe. We panicked once they scored. There were probably 10 minutes where we were trying to rebuild our shape. Once we got our shape back I think we were the dominant team.”

After tying in their two Condor League encounters, Torres was hoping the third meeting would be the charm for the Owls.

“All three games were fun,” he said. “It’s sad for the boys to lose this one. I could have lost the first two and won this one and I’d be happy.”