The soccer pitch on Ed Burke Field covers more than 7,000 square yards. It came down to feet and inches Tuesday night, Feb. 25, as Torrey Pines outlasted Canyon Crest, deadlocking 2-2 after 90 minutes and winning 5-4 on penalty kicks in the CIF Open Division Boys’ Soccer semi-finals. The triumph sends the second-seeded Falcons (20-3-2), in search of a second consecutive section banner, to Friday night’s championship match where they will tangle with fourth-seeded Del Norte (13-3-5), an overtime upset winner against top-seeded Cathedral Catholic.
Torrey Pines Head Coach Andy Hargreaves, who has three CIF titles total to his credit, was glad to be moving forward but left fatigued post-game. “That was an amazing game and we were fortunate to win it,” said Hargreaves. “We were not at our best today—we looked and it felt like we were never really settled. I think they (CCA) sensed that too.
“But we hung in there, it definitely feels good and we’re excited about having the opportunity to play a tough Del Norte team.”
Tuesday’s clash was the third of the season between the two Avocado West League rivals who are separated by less than three miles in Carmel Valley. The first two had completely different styles and outcomes with the visiting team emerging victorious in both—Canyon Crest posting a dominant 2-0 win on January 23 to give them the lead midway through the Avo West schedule and then Torrey Pines rebounding to rout the Ravens, 5-0, two weeks later, essentially sewing up the league crown.
The third meeting had a distinct feel altogether, perhaps because of what was on the line. Torrey Pines emerged from the first half with a 1-0 lead, courtesy of a quality goal by senior Jose Salgado. The Falcons’ leading scorer wheeled around a marking defender to get clearance, then moving right to left, came back across his body to drill a team-leading 11th goal into the left side of the net. That score aside, in the run of play, the first 40 minutes were at worst a draw and likely advantage CCA.
Less than five minutes into the second session, polished sophomore Charlie Kosakoff bulled past a Raven defender on the end line right of the goal and lasered a textbook cross to Olivar Brandrup, who was parked on the far post, and the lanky junior nodded it in from short range, his 10th. Kosakoff, who is superb with the ball at his feet and has the rare ability to be physical but still in control while moving in traffic, created problems all night. After goal No. 2 Torrey Pines seemed to elevate its game and as the teams were nearing the midway mark of the second half, the outcome felt certain.
In the blink of an eye, that notion shifted. CCA senior Jack Farfel uncorked a stunning blast from 30 yards out that got over Falcon keeper Nick Bello, dove into the goal and cut the margin in half. That jolt invigorated the visitors but not nearly as much as what happened nine minutes later. From a front of the goal scrum, following a throw-in, senior Ben Anderson tallied on a header—2-2 and all bets were off.
During the final 15 minutes of regulation and subsequent 15 minutes of overtime, the Ravens smelled blood in the water and threw everything they had at the defending CIF champions. Bello was an acrobat and the Falcons needed a little bit of luck but somehow weathered the storm to force penalty kicks.
“I think we got tested in ways we haven’t been tested this year,” said Hargreaves, acknowledging CCA’s effort. “We got a little bit out of rhythm but didn’t get frustrated and were able to do what we needed to get the result.”
Building off his performance in the previous 25 minutes, Bello was the man of the hour in the five-man shootout. Both teams made their first three PKs but the Ravens’ Leo Altafini stopped Brandrup, Torrey’s fourth shooter. In a “back-against-the wall” situation, Bello turned away CCA’s Ethan Roche to equalize things again. Salgado converted for the Falcons and stalwart center back Jesse Yu did the same for CCA, creating a 4-4 ledger and a sudden victory scenario. Torrey Pines sophomore Ty Barton then slotted a low drive into the left corner, inches out past the reach of a diving Altafini who had guessed correctly. That left it up to Bello, who had moved in the right direction on the last three CCA shots, and he chose wisely again to block the attempt of Ben Anderson in a dramatic finish. The hero talked about his approach and the final stretch of play.
“You try to read the taker but it’s just a gut feeling, you have to go with your first instinct and trust in that,” said Bello. “We were set on just not losing the game and the boys did well to stay in it and then make their PKs and give me a chance to make a few saves.
“It was a little hectic towards the latter stages, we fell of our game and started playing the way they wanted. They had us back on our heels and we kind of lost our composure, but we stayed in it to give us a chance to win it at the end.” Once it was over, teammates and fans rushed the field and Bello was able to savor the triumph.
“It’s a great feeling afterward, the best in the world,” he said. “It’s all pretty stressful in the moment but when it’s over there’s an incredible adrenaline rush.
“It was unforgettable but we also know that it was kind of a wake up call and we still have one more step to take Friday. There was a realization of just what kind of do-or-die situation this is and if we slip up, that’s it. We saw firsthand tonight how it could feel to get knocked out.”
Any questions about Canyon Crest belonging at the very top level of San Diego high school boys’ soccer were answered Tuesday. Head Coach Tom Lockhart was, as usual, classy even in an obviously agonizing instant. “It’s emotional,” said Lockhart. “I’m so proud of my team, absolutely so proud of them. To take Torrey to PKs in an Open Division semi-final on their field, that’s something—what a great game, it’s too bad this wasn’t the final.
“There are a lot of teams that when they were down 2-0 (after losing to the same team 5-0 two weeks earlier) would have just gone ‘here we go again’ and rolled over. They showed so much heart—you can’t coach that.”