By Joe Naiman
Ramona High School’s boys soccer team earned a first-round bye in the CIF Division II playoffs and will begin post-season action this Saturday at home against the winner of the first-round game between Oceanside and La Costa Canyon.
The Bulldogs concluded their regular season with a 20-2-3 overall record which included an 8-1-1 performance in Valley League play to give Ramona second place in the final league standings. The Bulldogs completed league play and the regular season with a 4-2 home win Feb. 12 against Del Norte and a 1-1 tie Feb. 14 at home against Orange Glen.
Ramona had a 2-0 lead over Del Norte at halftime with Andy Garcia and Ricky Rodriguez scoring a goal apiece. The Nighthawks tied the game during the second half.
“They really outplayed us in the second half,” said coach Michael Jordan. “They just were really hungry and they came back and tied it.”
The Bulldogs scored two goals in the final four minutes for the victory. Ramona was awarded a direct kick which was set up for a left-footed kicker, so Jordan had Garcia take that free kick.
“We were hoping he was going to shoot the ball,” Jordan said.
Garcia took a shot from the play and scored his second goal of the game.
“Goalkeeper had no chance,” Jordan said.
Shortly afterward Rodriguez scored his second goal of the game on a counterattack play.
The victory over Del Norte made Ramona one of two 20-win teams in the county for the regular season.
“I’d love to make it 23,” Jordan said. “Twenty-three means that we’re CIF champions.”
The only San Diego County team in any division with more victories during the regular season than Ramona was Carlsbad, whose wins included a 1-0 victory over Ramona in the Dec. 3 semifinals of the Coronado Islander Tournament. The Bulldogs’ only other loss was a 2-1 defeat Jan. 29 at Orange Glen during the first round of league play. Del Norte tied Orange Glen on Jan. 31, which was the only blemish on the Patriots’ league record prior to the tie at Ramona.
Since Orange Glen entered the Feb. 14 game at Ramona half a game ahead of the Bulldogs in the league standings, a Patriots win or tie would seal the league title for Orange Glen while Ramona needed a victory to win the Valley League championship.
Jordan was pleased with the number of spectators who made the game their Valentine’s Day preference.
“There had to have been at least 200 people there,” he said. “I have not seen a crowd like that for a high school match since I was in high school.” Jordan graduated from Ramona High School in 1989.
Orange Glen took the lead with its goal early in the first half.
“The first 15 minutes we were horrible,” Jordan said. “We really outplayed them the rest of the game.”
Ramona’s goal was also scored in the first half when Morgan Schmidt beat three defenders before placing a shot into the net.
“Amazing strike,” Jordan said.
The rest of the game was scoreless.
“We had our opportunities in the second half,” Jordan said. “Just couldn’t get the shot.”
Orange Glen thus won the Valley League title with an 8-0-2 league record.
“The boys were a bit deflated,” Jordan said. “It was tough to come that close to the league championship and not get it, but I was really proud of their efforts.”
Even though Orange Glen won the league championship, Ramona had a higher seed at the CIF playoff selection and seeding meeting Feb. 16. Ramona’s No. 3 seed gave the Bulldogs the first-round bye while Orange Glen was seeded fifth.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve earned a top four seed,” Jordan said.
Ramona’s first two games of the season were wins over Hilltop and Hoover in the Coronado Islander Tournament; the Lancers and Cardinals subsequently won league championships.
A win in Saturday’s playoff quarterfinals would give the Bulldogs a semifinal match Feb. 27. If second-seeded Westview wins its quarterfinal, the Bulldogs would travel to the Wolverines’ field; if the Wolverines are upset, then Ramona would host that semifinal.