PREP BOYS SOCCER: Runnin’ Down a Dream
Every athlete always looks for a secret weapon before stepping onto a playing field.
For Juan Carlos Torres, he might have just stumbled upon one of his own.
The Santa Barbara High forward decided to call it a night at 8 p.m. Tuesday — about two hours before he normally turns in.
The junior turned those two hours of extra rest into two critical, second-half goals in the Dons’ Channel League-clinching, 3-0 road victory over cross-town rival San Marcos on Wednesday night at Warkentin Stadium.
That’s four consecutive league titles for Santa Barbara — staving off a Royals team that only needed a tie Wednesday to win the title outright.
“Had to get my sleep, had to be ready for this one,” said Torres after notching his 20th and 21st goals of the season — the latter on an incredible free kick from 25 yards out that sailed into the upper-right corner of the net.
“We remembered the last time. That’s all the motivation we needed.”
The victory came after two uncharacteristic losses against the Royals earlier this season, including a 3-0 thumping on Jan. 19 for their only defeat in league.
Since then? The Dons have outscored four opponents 20-1.
“The biggest change we made was the way we started this game, intensity-wise,” said long-time Dons coach, Todd Heil. “And we got embarrassed (by 3-0 loss). And tonight was a response to that.
“And we watched a lot of video on our first game with them. And we learned from that. We went to work. We went to school.”
That passion from the outset kept the Dons (16-5 overall, 9-1 league) in control of the ball for much of the first half, narrowly missing a pair of chances in the opening 10 minutes.
With time running down in the half, Santa Barbara was finally able to break through a normally stingy Royals’ defense, taking advantage of a long throw-in that squirted through the box to the foot of sophomore Luisangel Jeronimo, as he slid into it the right side of the net and set off raucous cheers from the visiting stands.
“In situations like that, you just need to put it on frame and give it a chance,” Heil said. “Timely, incredibly timely for us.”
The Royals (14-5-6, 8-1-1) opened the second half with a prime opportunity after a Dons’ foul just outside the box, but saw the free kick sail over the goal — and they subsequently struggled to find any momentum the remainder of the game.
“They were first to everything today, and that makes a huge difference,” said San Marcos coach Paul McLean. “They did a couple of smart things by marking a couple of players that made it difficult to play our game.”
Both Santa Barbara (currently ranked No. 8 in Division 1) and San Marcos (currently ranked No. 9 in Division 2) will now await its fate for the CIF-SS playoffs, with the Dons assured a home game.
The playoff pairings are slated to be announced live at 11 a.m. Friday.
“This was huge for momentum. We’ve gone into the playoffs after a loss and it’s just a sinking feeling of questioning yourselves and wondering,” said Heil. “Now it’s confidence, you look at us from the game that we lost to San Marcos to now, we’ve outscored our opponents 20-1. We have to continue to play with that passion.”