Boys Soccer: Young comes up big again to seal SI’s playoff win over Sacred Heart

St. Ignatius senior goalkeeper Reuben Young slides in to make a save on Sacred Heart senior forward Jonathan Rojas on Saturday at the Crocker Amazon Soccer Fields. (Photo by Willie Eashman)

By Jeremy Balan

No matter what seed the St. Ignatius boys soccer team takes into the West Catholic Athletic League playoffs, the Wildcats are deadly in the postseason.

It also helps that they have a proven goalkeeper with a knack for making dramatic saves.

A goal from senior midfielder James Smith in the 54th minute gave the Wildcats a 1-0 lead over rival Sacred Heart Cathedral in the first round of the WCAL playoffs and standout SI senior goalkeeper Reuben Young kept the slate clean to seal a SI victory on Saturday at the Crocker Amazon Soccer Fields.

Just like he did against Bellarmine in the league championship last season, Young was the difference late in the game with a hard-charging Irish attack eager to equalize.

Sacred Heart Cathedral senior William Velasco (left) and St. Ignatius senior James Smith battle for possession on Saturday at the Crocker Amazon Soccer Fields. (Photo by Willie Eashman)

In the sixth minute of stoppage time, Sacred Heart senior Gianmichael Santimauro found senior forward Jonathan Rojas unmarked 10 yards from the face of the net.

Rojas took a split second to collect the ball and Young broke toward him. Rojas tried to chip the the ball past Young, but the keeper slid in with his arms extended, blocked the ball with his hands an controlled the the rebound.

“It was just a reaction,” Young said. “We were in this position last year, except it was in the championship against Bellarmine. I don’t know if I was really thinking at all then or now.”

The save was undoubtedly important and preserved the slim Wildcats’ lead, but St. Ignatius head coach John Prior was more impressed with the way Young handled the potential rebound with two Sacred Heart players still on the doorstep.

“What’s amazing about that save is that he saved it and caught it. It’s a top-class play,” Prior said. “What Reuben is doing this season and what he did a lot of last season – he makes incredible saves, but it’s not because he’s just good. He works harder than anybody, every day.”

The last-minute chance was the best scoring opportunity for fourth-seeded Sacred Heart (11-6-3) all game, even though the Irish applied significant pressure on the St. Ignatius back line throughout. The Irish were often in a position to score, but were frequently a step or foot off when trying to connect on passes in attacking positions.

“In the final third, we weren’t as sharp as we have been in other games throughout the season,” said Sacred Heart head coach Jeff Wilson. “We have all the capabilities and I’m sure once we hit the [Central Coast Section playoffs] we’ll make another run at it.”

While the Irish pushed the tempo of the game, the St. Ignatius midfield was patient and calmly distributed the ball when the Wildcats (9-8-4) had possession. That patience paid off with Smith’s score, on a deft touch pass from senior Eli Love in the penalty area.

“We’ve been preaching patience all year and we’ve had it for 70 minutes in a lot of games,” Prior said. “Usually, we’ve ran out of patience or discipline in the last 10. We’ve lost five games that way, but today we finished.”

As anticipated for a playoff game between rivals, the game was physical and contentious, but the game also wasn’t short on controversy.

In the 70th minute, Sacred Heart freshman forward Spencer Johnson appeared to be struck in the head and fouled in the penalty area. Instead of awarding the Irish a penalty kick, the referee ruled a “high kick” infraction and gave Sacred Heart a free kick from about 12 yards away from the net.

The ensuing kick was sent low, directly into the St. Ignatius wall set up at the face of the goal and bounced away from danger.

Moments later, a Sacred Heart defender kicked high and made contact with a St. Ignatius players’ head and the same decision was issued, with no card.

“It’s always at the referee’s discretion, but technically by rule, it’s a high kick and he was consistent,” Wilson said. “You could read it as a [penalty kick], but other things were more worthy of a [penalty kick]. That’s just the way it goes.”

While the Irish still have the CCS playoffs to look forward to, the Wildcats have a fourth-consecutive WCAL tournament title still on the table, with a match against top-seeded St. Francis awaiting on Tuesday.

“Playoff time is once-off and you may plan a little bit differently for a one-off game than a regular season game, because you’re not thinking about a game two days away,” Prior said. “You put all of your eggs in one basket and you hope you get it right, but if it wasn’t for Rueben, we’d still be out there.”

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6 Comments

  1. Wanda says:

    The earlier post was dead on. SI in 5th place this year? What happened? Hopefully they can salvage the season and get hot instead of getting bailed out by their goalie. I have to admit, as much as it hurts, that SH is a better team. They seem to have more skilled players. SI seems too stiff. They lack any imagination and don’t use the whole field. It is like getting in a time capsule and going back to the 70s-80s when they played hard nose old school soccer. Soccer is called the beautiful game and it hurts to watch them. I really hope they change their style of play. They can be a lot better than their record suggests. A whole new tactical approach is in order. Go Cats!

    • PABLO says:

      What are you smoking “Wanda” you obviously have never really played soccer at any kind of decent level. WCAL soccer is not “Futsal” the so called “Beautiful Game” you talk about in not all about fancy foot work and nice “Hair Style” Coach Prior and Wilson who have both played soccer at the highest level, are a credit to SF soccer, both teams have become a force to reckon with in the WCAL, probably one of the best high school leagues in not just California but the entire country. JP has been coaching youth soccer for over 20 years and I can tell you there is not a better coach in the City at getting the most out of a team. He coaches the game the way it should and has to be played if you are to have any kind of success in this league. Physically Strong at back, strong down the center, get the ball out wide attack from the wings, strong on set pieces. I would rather be on the correct side of 1 to 0 win, than on the wrong side of 5 to 4 loss. If you want the “beautiful game” watch it on Spanish TV on the weekend, if you want to win in WCAL, coach to win with the players you have. As for Jeff what can I say he has to be up for coach of the year again this year.

      Good luck to SI and Coach JP v St. Francis and watch out for both these City teams in CCS, gone are the days when the Bells, St Francis, Mitty and Serra come to our City expecting easy points.

      “Go Irish”

      • Richmond Wrecker says:

        Both teams were strong, however, SHC was greatly hurt by the injury to their starting left back that occurred during the Serra game. Depth is generally an issue for the SHC teams, as only those athletes who are truly dedicated generally continue playing past the Frosh/JV level. Jeff Wilson is a good coach due to his competitive nature, but this also frequently hurts him when he attempts to amass talent. Many players at the school are turned off by his gruff demeanor. I believe one player quit this year due to a disagreement with the coaching staff, and from what I have heard, it was an easily avoidable issue on both sides.

        That having been said, this year SHC was blessed with enough skilled players to play a more fluid, offensive game, and their record reflects it. One cannot force the system onto the players, one must adapt the system to maximize the talents of the players, and Coach Prior does just that with his St. Ignatius teams. They are a good unit and play strong, physical soccer. Best of luck to them in the WCAL playoffs.

      • IC Stars says:

        Right on all counts Pablo. Irish soccer has a good chance at some CCS hardware this season.

  2. his boo says:

    Congatulations baby ! im so proud of you rueben <3

  3. connor says:

    I guess I must be smoking the same stuff as Wanda. If 5th place in the WCAL is considered a successful season and proper use of surrounding talent, then I guess SI no longer has the players to be a powerhouse. A big drop off from previous seasons. Pablo uses words like big, strong, physical. Those are great attributes. I saw the little fast white kid for SH carve through a whole defense of big strong physical SI defenders. The kid Oscar Reyes plays defender sometimes. He isn’t the biggest or strongest but he plays the position well. Although I think he is capable of playing up and scoring. The funny thing is that I saw a club team before the season started, made up of SI and a few SH players and I thought they played beautifully. So of course it was a sign of good things to come. Evidently it wasn’t. Tough season. Get em next year Cats!

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