BURBANK — In recent years, the matchup between the Crescenta Valley High and Burroughs boys’ soccer teams seems to bring out the best in both squads.
It was no different Monday, as the Falcons and Indians faced one another for the second time this season.
It was a spirited battle throughout, with both teams enjoying their share of scoring chances over the course of the first 75 minutes. But despite the opportunities, neither squad could put the ball in the back of the net.
That changed, however, in the 76th minute when Burroughs’ Brandon Gerlach scored a goal to break a scoreless deadlock. The Indians made the goal stand — barely — over the course of the final four minutes and Burroughs was able to claim a 1-0 Pacific League victory at Memorial Field.
By pulling out the win, Burroughs 13-2-4, (8-0-2 in league) — ranked No. 5 in the latest CIF Southern Section Division III poll — was able to stay in a tie for first place in league with Pasadena (8-0-2 in league) with 26 points. The Bulldogs held on for a 2-1 victory against Glendale on Monday.
After both Crescenta Valley (17-4-3, 6-3-1) and Burroughs tied in league matches Friday against Muir and Glendale, respectively, they were hungry for a victory Monday.
“The boys really stepped up and played extremely well today,” said Burroughs Coach Mike Kodama, whose squad defeated the Falcons, 2-1, in their first league meeting Jan. 13. “It was a big game, with a championship atmosphere. I thought, really, that both teams played very well today. CV is a great team and is always well coached. They always give us a battle.
“But in the end, for us, as the game was coming to an end, we were able to keep calm and just keep playing for the moment.”
Although his team absorbed the loss, Crescenta Valley Coach Grant Clark was as equally proud of this side’s effort on the field.
“This game required 80 minutes of hard soccer,” said Clark, whose squad is ranked ninth in Division III. “I think it is the most complete game that we’ve played this season, down to the last whistle. We just played 80 minutes of complete soccer and I have to be proud of the effort that the guys gave out there.”
With time running out in the second half and the Indians and Falcons not able to capitalize on their scoring chances, it looked as if the match might end in a stalemate. However, Burroughs was able to take advantage of what would turn out to be its last scoring opportunity of the game.
With four minutes left, Burroughs made a run up the right side of the field. Indians junior Andres Aguilar got control of the ball and played it up to senior Brandon Gerlach, who was streaking down the right side. Gerlach caught up to the ball, and in a leaping kick, directed the ball toward the net. The ball floated and came to rest in the right ride of the net for a goal.
“When I got the ball, I was trying to ignore the feelings that I was having of maybe trying to rush the chance,” said Gerlach, an All-CIF midfielder/forward who has three goals on the season. “I really didn’t want to rush it because I realized that that would probably be our last opportunity. I just tried to stay composed and get off the best shot that I could.
“At this point in the season, a win is a lot better than a tie for us.”
Down, 1-0, the Falcons came right back and had a prime chance two minutes later. After the Burroughs defense couldn’t clear the ball, senior Matt Ryan took a shot on Indians goalkeeper Alberto Meir, but the attempt hit the crossbar.
Ryan had another good chance in the 51st minute. After the ball rattled around in front of the Burroughs net, Meir blocked the ball while standing inside the near post. But the ball went out to Ryan near the far post and the senior took a shot toward the open side of the net. However, Meir was able to react in time to make the save.
“CV always has an amazing team and they definitely made it hard on us,” Gerlach said. “It always seems to come down to us and them for the best teams in the league every single year.”