Artesia Boys Soccer celebrates the school’s first CIF South Section Championship – Press Telegram

ARTESIA – After 80 minutes, the Artesia men’s soccer team’s 20-game winning streak was still alive, but the score was a draw.

However, the Pioneers were still confident in overtime.

“They believed in themselves. They believed in each other,” said Artesia boys soccer coach Octavio Marquez, who graduated from Artesia High School in 1993. “You could see the bond they had on a daily basis. Usually you see small groups within a team hanging out with each other, but you haven’t seen it with this team. They were all together.

Two minutes into extra time, senior striker Raul Pantoja scored a historic goal to claim the first-ever CIF South Section Division 5 championship with a 1-0 overtime win over Quartz Hill on Saturday 26 February.

“It was surprising. He came out of nowhere,” said senior Artesia defender Miguel Rodriguez, who is one of the team’s captains. “I didn’t expect it to work. I expected him to bounce back, but as soon as I saw the ball hit the net, I had tears of joy.

“It was an incredible feeling. The crowd went wild. Our players went wild. The coaches went wild,” Marquez said. “For me, honestly, it was surreal. It was a dream come true. Something we’ve been waiting for a long time. »

Artesia finished with a stellar 24-2-1 record.

The Pioneers outclassed their opponents 116-18 in the 2021-2022 season.

“Our program has been good for years. We haven’t been lucky to be able to win a CIF championship (so far),” explained Marquez, who recently concluded his fifth season as head coach.

Artesia boys soccer team won the CIF-SS Division 5 Championship 1-0 at Quartz Hill on February 26, 2022. (Artesia boys soccer)

Marquez, who played college football and college football at Artesia in the 1990s, said the school had been waiting decades to win a CIF-SS football championship.

“We knew before the start of the season, because of the group of kids we had, that we knew this season was going to be special,” Marquez continued. “It didn’t mean we were going to win the CIF, but we knew something special was going to happen with this group of kids.”

Meanwhile, 18 of the team’s 22 players hail from the town of Hawaiian Gardens, which has a population of less than 15,000. Many of the team’s players grew up playing youth soccer with the Hawaiian Gardens Eagles Soccer Club.

Rodriguez said that special bond was the synergy needed to win a CIF-SS championship.

“This team is one of a kind,” Rodriguez explained.

Rodriguez said playing during the pandemic was extremely difficult, but he is proud of his teammates for overcoming adversity.

“The pandemic has affected me quite enough because it has killed all motivation for football… (but) we worked hard during the season, before the season, we ran as a team, we did everything together as a team,” said Rodríguez. “We listened to our coaches. We stayed disciplined.

Artesia boys soccer team won the CIF-SS Division 5 Championship 1-0 at Quartz Hill on February 26, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Artesia boys soccer)

Artesia lost 3-2 in overtime to San Diego’s Crawford in the first round of the CIF SoCal Division IV Regional Playoffs on Tuesday, March 1.

The Pioneers had eight seniors on their roster, but will return eight of 11 starters next season. Marquez said the team’s underclass will never forget what it took to win their first CIF Championship.