With four games remaining in the regular season, if AV were to win the title then they would have to win all of these and hope that Roseland Prep drop a point by drawing one of their final matches. This would leave the two teams tied on points but, having beaten and drawn with Roseland this season, AV would win the tie-break over the Knights and clinch the title.
The first of these matches was at Upper Lake last Wednesday and it turned out to be the most one-sided game of the season. AV was 4-0 up in the first 10 minutes. Not long afterwards all of the bench players were playing and at the half it was 5-1. The second half saw next year’s potential starting line-up take the field for AV, with the exception of senior goalkeeper Elvis Gaxiola. Very promisingly this team produced the same results as the original starters, also scoring four goals in the opening 10 minutes of the half! After missing many more chances, the final score was 10-1 to AV with goals from Chirro Tovar (4), Gerardo Torales (3), David Eligio, Marcus Alarcon, and freshman Ullises Garcia, a very promising player who has recently joined the squad, scoring his first high school goal. The next game would most certainly not be like this.
Last Friday afternoon, the visitors to the Valley were St. Vincent’s from Petaluma who would face AV in a game featuring the two teams currently tied for second spot in the standings, both one point behind Roseland Prep. A month ago, the Mustangs had handed the Panthers the first of AV’s two losses this season when they came from 0-1 behind with five minutes to go to snatch a 2-1 victory with the final kick of the game. The Panthers were determined to get revenge for that crushing loss.
With a large and boisterous crowd in attendance once again, AV got off to a very good start and in the 9th minute Fernando Ferreyra picked out Moises Segura’s run from midfield into the Mustangs' penalty box and placed the ball perfectly at the co-captain’s feet. The unmarked Segura took one touch before placing the ball past the exposed 'keeper into the corner of the goal from 12 yards out. 1-0 to AV.
The remainder of the half saw AV dominate for a time and a second goal seemed inevitable but by the break St. Vincent’s had fought back strongly and the game was finely balanced as AV held on to their narrow lead. The second half saw a determined effort by the Mustangs to get the equalizer and at times the mistake-ridden Panthers seemed to be giving them every opportunity to do so as on two occasions shots by the visitors rattled the Panther crossbar. However, the Panthers responded to these “wake-up” calls and finished in the ascendancy, hitting the bar themselves and missing a couple of good chances to put the game beyond doubt. The final whistle blew and AV had secured the revenge win — a deserved result over the 80 minutes and one that kept them in the race for the title.
Moments later, news filtered through that Roseland had tied with Calistoga and thus the Panthers were now level with the Knights and would win the regular season championship on the tie-break if they won their final two matches. What a great bonus on top of the big win over St. Vincent’s! However, some hours later, after a number of “revenge-is-sweet” beers for the coaches (not the players, one assumes), the truth was learned. Apparently the score from Santa Rosa that had been passed on was sent with two minutes to play and in the very last minute Roseland had scored with a penalty kick and beaten Calistoga 3-2. They were once again one point ahead of the Panthers and the title’s destiny was beyond AV’s control.
There are two regular season matches remaining, both at home, and each would require a Panther win to keep the pressure on Roseland and also to maintain the push for the #1 postseason seeding. The first of these is today, Wednesday, October 29, at 4.30pm against Calistoga in what is always a tough “battle,” before the regular season concludes with a final home game tomorrow, Thursday, October 30, again at 4.30pm, against Point Arena.
The seeding committee meets on Sunday, November 2 to decide the play-off teams and their rankings. It is hoped, with significant justification, that with Roseland Prep in the big school play-offs, AV will get the #1 seed for the small schools postseason matches. If so, the first game would in most likelihood be on Saturday, November 8, at Tom Smith Field in Boonville, kick-off time to be announced next week.
As always your support at the matches is much appreciated. We play exciting football and, as I’ve often said, vociferous home crowd support is probably worth a goal a game! Hope to see you there. Come on you Panthers!