Boys Soccer: Lindsay Cardinals score seventh straight solo ESL title
Win by Lindsay and loss by Strathmore breaks tie atop ESL standings handing the Cardinals their seventh straight title
By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
LINDSAY – It seemed the East Sequoia League (ESL) was going to have their first co-league champions since 2011. Both the Lindsay Cardinals (21-2-2, 9-1) and the Strathmore Spartans (12-9-1, 8-2) entered last Wednesday, Feb. 7, deadlocked at the top of the standings. If each of them won their respective games, they would have shared the title.
Lindsay did their part by defeating the Woodlake Tigers (11-14-2, 5-5) 6-0. They waited for the possibility that they would be sharing the title with Strathmore. However, when the score came in, they saw the Spartans had lost 1-0 to the Corcoran Panthers (13-13-1, 5-5).
“It is a great feeling that we do not have to share this with anyone,” Lindsay head coach Tony Godoy said. “I told my team: ‘The ones who become champions play their best at the end and finish on a high note.’ And I think we are there.”
The game between the Cardinals and Tigers had the feel of a tune-up game as Lindsay prepared to defend their D-IV valley championship. All of Lindsay’s mid-field players and forwards pushed the ball up into the Tiger zone. The pressure created 10 scoring chances in the first 10 minutes.
The tenth scoring chance was the first one to find the net. Moises Betencourt from 20 yards out turned and fired a shot toward the far post. As the ball traveled toward the goal it drifted out of reach of Woodlake’s goal keeper and into the side of the net.
Nine minutes later Marcos Ceballos, Lindsay’s leading scorer, struck twice within a minute time frame. The first came when he got a pass from the middle of the field, and fired immediately, scoring to make it 2-0. Like the first Ceballos scored from outside the box. However, this time he maintained possession as he dribbled across the field until he was in the middle. From there at 25-yards out he squared his shoulders and scored his second to make it 3-0.
“We have to start playing the way we want to in playoffs, and we are doing that,” Ceballos said.
Jose Ortiz added two more goals for the Cardinals before the end of the half. Then in the second half Jimmy Guajardo added the fifth and sixth goal to make it final.
Offensively the Tigers were kept silent in this game. Their first shot did not come until the 25th minute of the first half. Similar to most on this night the shot went wide of the goal.
“I told my boys before the game began, ‘expect them to come out firing on all cylinders,’ and that is what they did,” Woodlake head coach Jose Palomo said.
Besides the obvious of staying in contention for the league title Godoy had another objective for this game. He wanted his team to begin playing at the level they will see come playoff time. The return of Augustin Valdovinos helped. His 6-foot height in the middle and back, alongside Chris Orozco, helped Lindsay keep the ball in their possession. Offensively, he also produced an assist on the night.
“Having Augustin back is huge. His presence allows other players to get forward,” Godoy said. “We are finally playing the way we want to play.”
Strathmore on the other hand came up short of their first league title of any kind in over ten seasons. In their final regular season game the Spartans (12-9-1, 8-2) traveled to Corcoran to play the Panthers (13-13-1, 5-5).
Halfway through the second half came a call, controversial in nature to some, inside the Spartan penalty box. The call resulted in the Panthers scoring on a penalty kick to take the win 1-0.
From Spartans head coach Jimmy Madrigal’s point of view the contact that resulted in the foul, “was nothing more than two players battling for the ball.” However, if the Spartans had scored on one of their 17 shots on goal in the first half the outcome might have been different.
“We were hitting the ball off the cross bar, or wide,” Madrigal said. “It was just a bad night.”
Despite what the outcome was both the Cardinals and Spartans earned number one seeds in their respected divisions. The Cardinals will play the winner of the No. 8 Yosemite Badgers and No. 9 Kerman Lions on Thursday. Strathmore will play the winner of the No. 8 Frazier Mountain Falcons and No. 9 Bakersfield Christian Eagles. Both games begin at 6 p.m.
The Woodlake Tigers on the other hand had to travel for their opening round game after receiving the No. 12 seed. They played the No. 5-seeded Orosi Cardinals last night. Final score for that game was reached after press time.