After winning the first-ever CIF Sac Joaquin league title for Liberty Ranch men’s soccer, they faced Dixon last Tuesday night to win the SVC section title. Their first playoff game against Orestimba was a solid 5-1 victory. After that, nothing would be easy or taken for granted.
The following game, the boys would almost wait until the end of the game to score and finish Sonora 1-0.
The third installment was against Pioneer, and it was one of the fastest football matches I have witnessed. The defense held them off and eventually Liberty was able to defeat them with minutes to spare 1-0.
Finally, they reached the final bracket, which would be against Dixon. It wasn’t the first time this season they faced Dixon. In fact, they beat them 4-0 in December.
Dixon came prepared this time and their defense was much stronger and, although the Hawks came close to the goal a few times, the halftime bell rang and neither team scored. Teams battled and became more frantic. Liberty’s two captains, Julio Pargas and Harlee Vidrio, received the game’s only two yellow cards.
The whistle signaled the end of the game, and the score was still 0-0.
There was a water break and 10 minutes of overtime began. Both teams came close, but neither scored. The 10 seconds of overtime came and went, and the score was still 0-0.
The race was over and it was time for the penalty shootout to determine the winner. Each team would be allowed to shoot the goalkeeper five times from the penalty spot. The players knelt at the 50-yard line and joined arms in unity as five teammates fired.
Emmanuel Gomez was the first to kick and scored. Then Liberty Ranch goalkeeper Sergio Duarte was tagged. Julian Rodriguez and Ismael Chavez took and made their shots on goal. Duarte blocked the next two and the crowd went wild.
Finally, when Liberty Ranch scored three and Dixon two, Duarte blocked his finishing kick. Julio Pargas put the nail in Dixon’s coffin by making his own, and Liberty Ranch won on penalties 4-0.
Head coach Garett Arechiga may have had tears in his eyes.
“We decided to change the outlook on high school football in our city,” Arechiga said. “We accomplished that. First, we set out to win Liberty Ranch’s first-ever championship title, and we did. Our biggest goal was to get that section title. These boys – the reason I came to this program was for these boys – just so I could be a part of what they achieved; I couldn’t be prouder. It was a wild ride. We still have some work to do next week at regionals, but those boys with that section title can go make some noise at regionals now.
Even though it’s a team sport and a team win, goalkeeper Sergio Duarte arguably had the most pressure on his shoulders. When asked how he remained so calm during the shooting, he replied: “I believe that we always give 100% and we know what we are doing,” Duarte said. “We are now part of history and that makes me very proud, it’s just very exciting. Give it your all, get that winning mentality in you, and give it 100% and you can be champions.
The Hawks now head to regionals against Pleasant Valley High in Chico on Tuesday night.