Columbia High and La Center headed for a showdown Tuesday in La Center, with first place in SWW 1A League boys soccer standings on the line.
Entering Tuesday's match, the Bruins held a 4-0 record in league play, while the Wildcats stood at 5-0. Result of the match was unavailable at press time.
Columbia readied itself for the La Center contest with a stern test from visiting Rochester last Saturday, when it went down to the wire before pulling out a 1-0 victory.
The game-winning goal came on a header by forward Martin Mendoza with just over 2 minutes remaining.
"Martin's goal was a well-placed shot, at the right moment," Bruins Coach Peter Knowles said.
Mendoza, CHS's lead goal scorer in 2006, accounted for seven shots on goal--half the team's output. Among Mendoza's shots on goal were a few that just missed and some that were stopped by a strong Forks goalkeeper.
"We all had the feeling that, if Martin kept getting good looks at the goal, one of them would make it through," Knowles said. "As the game wound down, it seemed increasingly apparent that one goal would win the game, for either team."
The Bruins got a boost in the late going with the arrival of starters of Chuy Ramos and Cheno Barajas. The two missed most of the match because of personal commitments.
But once they entered the game, they brought new energy and playmaking ability to the CHS lineup. And that proved to make a difference in the outcome as Rochester, with few available substitutes on its bench, began to tire after 70-plus minutes of back-and-forth action.
Columbia took advantage of Rochester's fatigue by mounting a number of threatening attacks. The Bruins' efforts came to a head in the final three minutes when Mendoza caught the Warriors' goalkeeper out of position and headed in a pass from Javier Ortiz.
Knowles said Columbia's victory was a tribute to the play of goalkeeper Carlos Mendoza, and defenders Louy Lerebourg, Ramon Cortez, Baldemar Maya and Hugo Guzman.
"Although Carlos only faced three shots on goal, that small number is not indicative of how important he was again in a win, and in our first shutout," Knowles noted.
He added that the rapidly maturing sophomore keeper's decision-making was outstanding.
"Forks had a number of strong crosses in front of the goal and a few long throw-ins and corner kicks that Carlos snatched before they could become dangerous," Knowles observed.
Other standouts for Columbia included midfielders Ortiz (who got the assist on Mendoza's goal), Jose Castaneda and Edgar Ceballos.
That trio, along with Shanti Gosman and Miguel Lujano, "helped control movement across the midfield," Knowles said. "From there, it was a matter of feeing the ball to Martin, Thomas Jeter and Trenton Morneault."
Columbia High 4, at Toledo 1:
Trenton Morneault and Cheno Barajas scored two goals apiece to lead the Bruins to the March 20 win over the Indians.
"That was our first long bus trip, and having sat around in the cold and win for a few hours while the jayvee team played its first match, I was worried we might come out a little flat," Bruins Coach Peter Knowles said. "We didn't."
The Bruins logged five quality shots in the first 15 minutes, with Barajas and Martin Mendoza applying most of the early pressure.
But it was Morneault who found the back of the net first, scoring in the 15th minute with a strong header off a cross from Barajas.
Barajas didn't have to wait long to get his first goal, however. It came just over four minutes later, at the 19:35 mark of the first half, unassisted.
The score remained 2-0 until the 47th minute, when Barajas knocked in his second goal after a long dribbling run down the left side of the field that he finished with a cutback and shot past Toledo's goal near the side of the goal.
"Cheno really had a strong game controlling the middle of the field, and managed to give the Toledo defense fits in covering him," Knowles said.
Toledo ensured it wouldn't be shut out when Ryan Votaw booted a penalty kick in the 69th minute. But neither did it take Columbia long after to respond.
"A second goal from Trenton--this one a trickling shot that just made it across the line--a few minutes later gave us a three-goal margin again," Knowles said.
Toledo JV 5, Columbia JV 4:
Edgar Ceballos and Leo Gonzales each scored two goals in the CHS junior varsity's first match of the season.
Knowles said a pair of second-half penalty kicks by Toledo made the difference.