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By Tom Ferrall
Staff Writer 

Warriors top Valley Center in critical rematch


Last updated 2/23/2018 at 5:45pm

The Fallbrook High soccer team put itself in prime position to win the Valley League title when it defeated Valley Center 2-1 in a tight, well-played contest Feb. 7 at Fallbrook Stadium.

The victory avenged an earlier loss to Valley Center and stopped the Jaguars' 12-game undefeated streak in which they had nine wins and three ties. Fallbrook, which lost to Valley Center 3-1 Jan. 19, handed the Jaguars their first loss since Dec. 6.

The victory on Senior Night improved Fallbrook to 4-1-1 in league play while Valley Center dropped to 3-1-1.

Fallbrook coach Jorge Rojas said his team benefited from its first meeting against Valley Center, which went into the rematch ranked No. 1 in Division 2 and No. 9 in San Diego County.

"Understanding your rival after you've played them once gives you a better feel for what type of game you're going to have, and the boys did well," said Rojas. "They showed a lot of discipline and played a system that we trained for very well. They executed the pattern plays we had and did well defensively too."

Fallbrook, which barely missed a goal just 13 minutes into the game when David Urquiza drilled a shot that hit the crossbar, took a 1-0 lead with 22:05 left in the first half when Nahun Ayala, positioned to the left side of the goal, put the ball into the right corner of the net. Yerry Mendez had the assist on the goal.

Valley Center evened the contest three minutes later on a goal by Jose Saldana and the teams went into halftime deadlocked 1-1.

Fallbrook, which honored its senior players at halftime, took a 2-1 lead less than seven minutes into the second half when Eric Ruiz took a pass from Mendez and booted the ball past Valley Center goaltender Bryan Molinero.

Fallbrook held the 2-1 lead to the final whistle and the solid defensive effort was capped by a good save by goaltender Craig Person in the final seconds. Person, a junior, replaced senior starter Eduardo Peñaloza with 29 minutes remaining in the game.

"Toward the end they made an adjustment and we responded to it impressively," said Rojas. "To me personally, the way these guys handled the game was pretty astonishing to watch. They (the Jaguars) were great technically and physically and we were very technical as well and we fought and matched up on both sides."

Rojas said the victory was the result of capitalizing on an opportunity.

"It pretty much came down to who is going to make that small mistake," said Rojas. "We saw one in our backfield, and then in that one split second that they got flat in their backline, we put one through to Eric and he puts it in the goal."

Rojas substituted players throughout the game and the fresh legs were needed to match strides with the Jaguars.

"Our depth on the bench is solid so for me it's about developing a team that can cycle itself through," said Rojas. "We carry six backs and my intention is to play them and cycle them through so none of them are gassed. It goes the same way with the forwards and the midfielders."

Mendez, who leads the Valley League in scoring with 15 goals, missed a penalty kick in the first half after he was the victim of a late tackle in the box. Mendez was being hounded by four Valley Center opponents at the time of the infraction.

"I hit under it and it went too high," said Mendez of the penalty kick, which would have been a successful field goal in football as it went through the uprights. "I picked the wrong sport," joked Mendez.

Although Mendez didn't score a goal against Valley Center, his presence on the field helped create opportunities for teammates as he was routinely double-teamed.

"As a defender your priority is to make sure this young man (Mendez) doesn't get past you," said Rojas. "They emphasize on him, but they tend to forget and look past our other players and that works to our advantage a little bit."

Fallbrook High, which posted a 2-0 road victory at Ramona Feb. 9, was scheduled to play its league finale at San Pasqual Feb. 14. The Warriors went into the game sitting atop the Valley League standings with a 5-1-1 record.

NOTE: The annual Fallbrook High Alumni Soccer Game will be held Friday, Feb. 16, at Fallbrook Stadium. A fundraiser for the soccer program, the game starts at 7 p.m. and brings out many former players, including many members of the championship teams from the early 2000s.


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