By Melody Young
On March 5, the Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) boys varsity soccer team played against Palisades High School in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) City Section Division I final at Los Angeles Valley College amidst a massive crowd of Highlanders that came to cheer them on.The rainy conditions were tough on the entire team as the ball kept skidding, but the players relentlessly pushed themselves to win. The 1-1 tie prolonged the game for two overtimes, the first overtimes to occur in the entire season. However, Palisades scored the winning goal in the final seconds of the game.
The varsity team advanced through the city final championship game and hosted the State Regional Championship, making a new record in the school’s history.
“The game was intense, and also we were dominating the entire game. We were getting really excited, but that’s when we started feeling the fatigue,” senior and center back Eric Leon said.
Coach Fabian Sandoval attributes the loss to insufficient hydration. The players did not plan ahead for the unexpected double overtime and cramped up since they were not accustomed to the extra 35 minutes of intense play. However, the team enjoyed the close match immensely.
“Because so many people were there to support us at the city final, I’ve never been more excited to play a game in my life,” senior and goalie Antonio Garcia said.
After the city finals, the team pressed on toward the CIF Southern California Regional Division II championship.
The team won the two State Regional playoff games and played the State Regional final at John Elway Stadium against South Bakersfield High School. The GHCHS team had the ball in possession most of the game but could not follow through with all the attempts.
The main factor contributing to the loss was that two players were not in their best condition. Senior and captain Eddie Leon, who plays forward and is one of the top scorers for the team, had a high fever while senior and midfielder Hector Mestre was recovering from a toe surgery he had a week before. Their minimized energy decreased the strength of the team’s front two sections, so they found it hard to score.
Despite the championship losses, the team overall performed exceptionally well this season. The team brought home the West Valley League championship title, and local sports news noted their outstanding performance.
Although the fan attendance at the games was inconsistent, the After Hours Activities (AHA) staff rooted for the team the entire season.
“Thank you to the AHA family for supporting us all the way. We are grateful for their unconditional support and sacrifice,” Eddie Leon said.
Now that the season has ended, all the varsity players are playing club soccer. This year’s team had 11 seniors, and the remaining 12 members were junior, who will continue the team’s legacy next year.
“Next year they [the juniors] are going to be a good team too. Everyone was on the same skill level, so our skill and technique were always on point. Our determination was strong because it is hard work at the top club level,” Eric Leon said.