It was a stunning result because it wasn’t even close.
Top-seeded San Clemente and third-seeded El Rancho could have played all night and the favored Tritons still would not have caught the team from Pico Rivera.
When 80 minutes of soccer was done, San Clemente’s hope of being recognized as a national champion was undone. El Rancho scored a 3-0 victory to win the Southern California Regional Division I Championship—essentially, the State championship for boys' soccer—at Warren High in Downey.
In a season filled with highlights, San Clemente’s final game had virtually none.
Instead, the Tritons (32-3-1) were victimized by the brilliance of Cristian Roldan, who had a pair of assists for El Rancho (29-1-1), which outscored its last two opponents, 10 goals to nil.
Even though San Clemente had scored a whopping 100 goals on the season, the Tritons could not slip, or power, anything past the Dons' Gonzalo Contreras, who finished the night with nine saves.
San Clemente basically assaulted the Dons for the first 10 minutes with play on the El Rancho end of the pitch. But the Tritons couldn't finish their chances, and the Southern Section's Division 3 champion countered with striking efficiency.
And just like that, the Tritons were drowning in a sea of trouble.
Mauricio Lopez scored in the 11th minute on a 30-yard blast, and then Jaime Moreno scored in the 13th on a header, and again in the 26th on a rebound that he punched in.
With a three-goal lead, and led by the play of Roldan—who had scored 54 goals on the season—the Dons' defense could settle in front of goal and bide their time until the end.
That's not to say San Clemente didn't have a prayer, but the opportunities it had in the first half when it had seven shots on goal to El Rancho's five, weren't as plentiful in the second.
Gage Zerboni, whose 31 goals broke a school record, hit the crossbar midway in the second half, and his shot from 22 yards with 2:34 remaining was gobbled up by Contreras. That was the last best hope for San Clemente, which had won the Southern Section Division 1 title last Saturday and was playing its fourth game in eight days.
Dylan DiGiacomo recorded five saves for San Clemente, which entered the match with 21 shutouts and had allowed only 15 goals. Only once this season had the Tritons allowed as many as three goals, a 3-0 loss to Carlsbad on Dec. 5. The only other loss was to El Toro, 2-1, on Jan. 4.
San Clemente, ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation, was in the championship game for the second time in three years. The Tritons are comprised of 10 seniors, seven juniors and seven sophomores.
El Rancho was defeated by San Clemente in the first round of the 2011 regionals as the Tritons eventually won the championship.
Two years later, the Dons were ready. Made up of 16 seniors, eight juniors and a sophomore, and with everyone eyeing the marquee game of the playoffs, they schooled the Tritons.
And it wasn't even close.