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Prep Boys Soccer Playoffs: Bender ends GH's season

Cougars lose to San Jacinto in quarters

APPLE VALLEY Small things can determine the outcome of a soccer match.

Friday night it was a late foul that made the difference in a CIF-Southern Section Division 5 quarterfinal match at Granite Hills. 

San Jacinto’s Agustin Rivas curved in a free kick from about 25 yards out on the sideline with five minutes to play, lifting the top-seeded Tigers past the Cougars 3-2.

“He hit it tough. He hit it mean,” San Jacinto coach David Kubotsu said. “He’s been a great player for me the last couple of years. He definitely stepped it up tonight. I’m proud of what he’s done, and he had a couple opportunities up that left-hand side that I thought were going to break.”

A foul was called on Granite Hills (19-6-2) to set up the kick.

“That was an awesome goal,” Granite Hills coach Paul Casarez said. “The only thing we could’ve prevented ... is don’t foul with their back turned. It gave them the opportunity and they scored. Obviously we’ll learn from it. But hey, that was an awesome goal.”

The loss comes a night after the Cougars beat Los Altos on penalty kicks in the second round.

San Jacinto (22-1-3) had lost in the quarterfinals each of the last two seasons. The Tigers allowed only 11 goals during the regular season, but have now allowed two goals two matches in a row.

“I’m going to give my team credit, because we played the game very well and it could’ve gone either way,” Casarez said. “Playing back-to-back, they showed a lot of heart. I can’t complain about that. It’s hard to beat the No. 1 team.”

Granite Hills fell behind early and never led in the game, trailing 2-1 at halftime.

Ben Lozano finished off John Leyva’s header to put San Jacinto up 1-0.

Later in the half, the Cougars’ Mario Cruz tied the score with a free kick from 35 yards out, sending it above a scrum of players fighting to get a head on the ball.

Then before halftime, San Jacinto’s Daniel Martinez got free 35 yards away from the goal and fired one in to give the Tigers the lead once again.

Granite Hills tied it up with some good ball movement midway into the second half. The Cougars’ Ryan Pinkerton assisted Danny Carvajal for the goal.

“The way we started the first half, we didn’t play Granite Hills soccer,” Casarez said. “I think they gave the other team too much respect, but at halftime we fixed it and went back into our original formation, a 4-3-3. As you can see, we got the goal off of it. We got possession and we started taking possession of the game.”

The Cougars finished second in a very competitive Desert Sky League. It was the second year in a row that Granite Hills reached at least the quarterfinals.

“We had a great season,” Casarez said. “I’m very proud of what we’ve done. Again, we were powered by sophomores. Last year it was freshmen with addition of superstar Ryan Pinkerton, best forward Granite Hills has ever had.”

C.J. Daft can be reached at or at (760) 951-6275. 

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