In an exciting overtime “golden goal” win, Samohi Boys Soccer captured the first ever California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) So Cal Regional Division I Championship to cap a historic season, going undefeated at 29-0-1. Junior mid-fielder Juan Magana blasted a lurking ball into the opponent’s net to secure a 2-1 victory over Poway High School in the tenth minute of overtime last Saturday at Downey’s Warren Stadium. The Vikings are now the premier soccer team among all high schools south of Fresno – schools representing better than half of California’s 33 million residents. The Vikings are also nationally ranked in several polls. They finished the season with 110 goals, giving up only 16.
“Today goes down as the greatest win in Samohi soccer history,” declared Soccer Director Frank Gatell.
Not just winning it all, going undefeated is an awesome task and the Vikings’ rise to the challenge was not without travails. Poway, coming off three consecutive CIF San Diego Section championships, was a worthy opponent and clearly belonged in the finals as they fiercely battled the Vikings to a 0-0 tie at half. Samohi junior Ricardo Martinez (playing on his birthday!) scored first on an assist by Artur Jozkowicz early in the second half. Poway rebounded with a goal two minutes later, setting the table for a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation play and then 15-minute “golden goal” overtime.
“Before we started overtime against Poway, I told the team that it was up to them. To play as one. To play with heart. That is what it came down to in the last second,” according to Viking Head Coach James Chapman.
The Vikings’ run to the Regional Championship included a hero-off-the-bench saga worthy of a Disney movie. In the first post-Section playoff at SMC against Newberry Park, all-CIF Viking keeper Alex Kovacs received a red card ejection and serious facial injury early in the second half. Back up keeper Michael Freedman, a sophomore who had seen very little playing time, was suddenly tending net in one of the biggest games in the school’s history. He played well and Samohi defeated Newberry Park 2-1, with the winning goal by Alessandro Canale in the waning minutes of regulation time. In Round Two, the Vikings dominated 3-0 against LA Section champs Banning High School, keeper Freedman’s first shutout. Due to injury, senior keeper Kovacs was still unable to play last Saturday so Freedman tended goal in the championship match against Poway. In all three games, Freedman received huge support from the Vikings’ doomsday defense paced by defensive backs Nick Ferro, Chris De La Rosa, and Tyler Horton. A large and boisterous crowd of supporters at all three games chanted support as well, “…Michael Freedman…Michael Freedman…” every time the journeyman keeper handled the ball. Overall, the Vikings were 6-2 in goal differential with Freedman in the net. More importantly, they won all three games!
Following the huge win over Poway, Viking Athletic Director Norm Lacy reflected: “It is a great day for Santa Monica soccer. Our community has produced many great players thanks to the efforts of many over the years including Jose Lopez [former boys and girls soccer coach and teacher at Samohi for 35 years]. Most of these players have been playing soccer for 10 years, even longer, in the AYSO and on club teams. Today’s win is icing on the cake.”
Indeed, thanks to the efforts of thousands of volunteers, youth soccer has long thrived in Santa Monica. The city’s American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) Region 20 alone fields over 1,500 players each fall. According to outgoing AYSO Commissioner Maryanne LaGuardia, at least 18 of the current 24 Samohi boys varsity are AYSO alumni, as are Viking Assistant Coaches Marco Sumale and Omar Tapia. LaGuardia notes, “Many of the Santa Monica High School varsity started AYSO 12 years ago when I first became Commissioner. What a kick it is to watch them now.”
What’s next for the Vikings? According to Gatell, graduating senior Charlie Paris is off to Yale next fall and Artur Jozkowicz will be attending LMU. The team’s 12 other seniors have yet to formally announce their intentions and they include: Orhan Basak, Alessandro Canale, Chris De La Rosa, Nico De La Rosa, Eduardo Delgado, Co-Captain Nicholas Ferro, Alex Fields, Co-Captain Alex Kovacs, Josue Moran, Jainen Narain, Adam Stocker, and Luis Zavala. Non-seniors eligible to return next year include: Alex Comfortes, Michael Freedman, Tyler Horton, Jake Leal, Juan Magana, Ricardo Martinez, Ian Michael, Lester Pivaral, Janish Narain, and Gerardo Romero.
The last Viking squad to win a CIF Section title was boys’ volleyball in 2006. With a varsity depleted by graduation, the volleyballers came right back in 2007 and won a berth in the Section Championship where they finished a close second. With eight of 11 starters graduating, boys’ soccer is challenged with a similar rebound. No matter the future, the current squad will always hold an incredible number of school soccer firsts: first Vikings to win CIF Section; first team ever to win the CIF So Cal Regional Championship; first Vikings ranked nationally; and, first Vikings to go undefeated. And it all came down to one dramatic moment – Juan Magana’s “golden goal” was the biggest goal of the game, biggest goal of the playoffs, biggest goal of the season, perhaps the biggest goal of his life, and just maybe the biggest goal in the history of soccer in our community.