By Jeremy Balan
With a logjam of teams vying for the Academic Athletic Association X Division’s final playoff spot, every match and every point is crucial with only one month remaining in the regular season.
Washington High School did its part to hang onto its slim one-point lead over Balboa with a dominating 6-0 win over visiting O’Connell on Thursday.
Balboa kept pace with a 3-0 win over Galileo, but International Studies Academy and San Francisco International are also within striking distance of the second-place Eagles (8-3-1), which have not won a AAA title since 1996.
“Every game counts now, with everyone so close,” said Washington head coach Jose Carrera. “If we lose a game, they can gain on us. We just want to make the playoffs, because from then on, anything can happen.”
All of Washington’s goals against O’Connell came from seniors, a class that has never experienced a postseason in their four years.
Rasam Aminzadeh led the way with three goals, Ahmed Abdo had two and Jeffrey Mejia scored one.
“As seniors, we know we have to win every game,” Aminzadeh said. “We’ve never been to the playoffs and it’s important to us, because we have a really good team this year and it would be disappointing if we didn’t make it.”
Aminzadeh scored his final goal just a minute into the second half to put the Washington lead at 5-0, but it was Mejia’s goal in the 66th minute that left a lasting impression.
Abdo chipped a ball toward the face of the net from the left wing, and Mejia did the rest, going nearly upside down to send a bicycle kick into the right side of the goal.
The Eagles sent 20 total shots on target, but if not for a sparkling performance from O’Connell senior goalkeeper Kirby Rodriguez, who finished with a staggering 14 saves, the lopsided deficit would have certainly been greater.
“He’s really been sticking it out,” said O’Connell head coach Bob Gamino. “I know there are days where he’s been frustrated and really sore and doesn’t want to go out there, but today he was excellent.”
While the Eagles are in the thick of a playoff race, the Boilermakers (3-8), just two years removed from a AAA title, have struggled mightily with many of their players absent due to academic ineligibility.
Without of a miraculous run, O’Connell will miss the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons, but Gamino expects many key players to be back next week to hopefully play spoiler to teams competing for postseason spots.
“We’re going to get some people upset, because our true team will come out,” Gamino said. “We know the potential that’s there in [our school], then you see the grades. We can chase them down, talk to them on the phone, visit them at their house. You can do all of that, but they have to take it to heart.”