By Joe Naiman
Ramona High School’s boys soccer team closed out the regular season with a statement that the Bulldogs will persevere until the very end against any team.
Although Ramona’s regular season ended Feb. 16 when a Torrey Pines goal with a minute remaining sealed a 3-1 Falcons victory, the Bulldogs’ final home game Feb. 14 saw Ramona score twice in the final six minutes to take a 2-1 victory over Mount Carmel.
“My boys aren’t going to back down to anybody,” said Coach Michael Jordan. “Our boys are not in awe of anybody.”
Eight of Ramona’s players are seniors, and Senior Night also recognized the Bulldogs’ statistician. Midway in the first half, a Ramona goal was nullified on a controversial offsides call. Adam Dolan’s shot from outside the 18-yard box was deflected by the goalkeeper. Julio Velasco approached the deflected ball and shot it into the net. Velasco was ruled offsides, although such an infraction would have had to occur prior to Dolan receiving his pass and the call should have been whistled at that time.
The game’s first goal was scored in the final seconds of the first half after Ramona was unsuccessful in clearing a corner kick. A Mount Carmel shot went off Ramona defender Connor Maruna and was deflected into the net for an own goal.
With about 15 minutes left, Jordan switched to a formation with three forwards, four midfielders, and three defenders. With about six minutes left, Abraham Cabrera played a long ball across the field to Maruna.
“Connor made a great run. The ball came all the way across,” Jordan said.
This time Ramona benefited from an own goal as the pass was deflected off the Mt. Carmel defender. After the Bulldogs tied the game Jordan went to a formation with four defenders, four midfielders, and two forwards. The Ramona players were not willing to settle for a tie, and two minutes after the first goal Andy Garcia took a shot that went over the crossbar.
“I started thinking to myself, ‘We can win this game,’” Jordan said. “I thought to myself, ‘These boys aren’t going to settle back. They’re going to go for it.’”
Ramona’s players had the same thought. With about three minutes left, Garcia’s long shot was deflected by the goalkeeper, but he recovered the rebound and played the ball to Carlos Blanco, who scored the winning goal.
“It was amazing,” Jordan said. “It was a nice way to honor our seniors.”
In addition to being Senior Night, Feb. 14 was also Jordan’s birthday.
“It was a pretty special night,” he said.
The loss was only the fourth of the season for Mt. Carmel, which entered league play undefeated.
Feb. 16 was Senior Night for Torrey Pines, and the Falcons had 15 senior players honored. Torrey Pines also had the Palomar League championship at stake. A tie against Ramona would mean a shared league title with Poway, while a loss would give the Titans the league championship.
The Falcons scored the game’s first two goals, but before the first half was over Dolan’s pass to Garcia turned into Garcia’s 16th goal of the 2011-12 season. That also put Ramona within one goal of the potential equalizer.
“The boys made me a believer,” Jordan said.
The margin stayed at a single goal for the first 39 minutes of the second half.
“We had two incredible chances to get the equalizer and maybe even go up and just couldn’t get it done,” Jordan said.
The Bulldogs met their goal of a 2-2-1 record for the second half of the Palomar League season. Ramona’s final league record was 3-6-1, which gave the Bulldogs fifth place in the six-team standings. The sixth-place team, Rancho Bernardo, defeated Poway for its only league win.
“Top to bottom any team can beat any team,” Jordan said.
Ramona’s final regular-season record was 10-11-3. On Feb. 18 the CIF playoff selection and seeding meeting gave the Bulldogs the 10th seed in the Division II playoffs and a Feb. 21 first-round game at Serra.
“I was extremely disappointed by that,” Jordan said of the seed.
Mount Carmel was seeded fourth in Division II.
“How do you beat a team that got a bye and not get a home game yourself?” Jordan said.
The Bulldogs’ tie was against Poway, which received the third seed in the Division I playoffs. Torrey Pines also earned a Division I first-round bye with the second seed while Westview’s third seed in Division II gave the Wolverines a first-round bye.
The winner of the Ramona-Serra game, which took place after this issue went to press, will play Saturday at second-seeded La Costa Canyon.
“At least we’re in the tournament and we go from there, and now we get to play the underdog,” Jordan said.