OAKDALE — Bryan Rodriguez stayed home for his team and played in honor of his grandfather, Merced Maya Tellez, who passed away earlier this week.
His second-half goal on Thursday helped Weston Ranch clinch at least a share of its third Valley Oak League championship, as the Cougars held off Oakdale, 1-0.
They conclude the league season next Tuesday at Sierra and can keep the crown all to themselves with a win. Sierra is the only team to have beaten Weston Ranch (8-1-2, 10-1-6 overall) so far this season.
“I’m really proud of this team,” Weston Ranch coach Francisco Cisneros said. “Nobody believed in them, so it’s a special one. They were able to bounce back from the heartbreak of last year, being in first place all year only to lose the league title on the last game.”
The latest victory was an especially emotional one for Rodriguez, who had planned on making the trip to Mexico after learning of his grandfather’s passing. His deciding goal came in the 50th minute. Zinadine Valdez, a freshman who was recently pulled up from the junior varsity team, received a centered pass from Elvin Bolanos and laid it off to Rodriguez.
“That’s the biggest goal of the season for us,” Cisneros said, adding that Rodriguez did not inform the team of his grandfather’s death until after the game. “It was an emotional moment for us.”
Goalkeeper Francisco Vega came up with his second clean sheet of the week and collected three saves, including a diving deflection on a well-struck ball and a 1-on-1 stuff.
“The guy has been on fire lately,” Cisneros said of his shot stopper. He also credited the rest of the back line and called his team’s second-half effort its best of the season.
“Everybody played with high intensity,” Cisneros said.
East Union 5, Kimball 0
Cristian Ramirez scored twice in the first half, and the Lancers (6-1-4 VOL, 9-3-8 overall) continued to dominate their home finale.
Jonathan Ponce dished out a pair of assists, the first of which set up Noe Martinez’s goal in the fourth minute. Alex Arroyo and Julian Irigoyen scored one apiece in the second half. Jonathan Ramirez and Jonathan Bautista each contributed an assist.
Central Catholic 3, Sierra 2
Sierra (6-4-1 VOL, 9-7-2 overall) has already clinched a postseason berth, but the upset loss to the visiting Raiders (6-6-2, 7-6-2) may hurt its seeding.
“We were flat and missed too many opportunities,” Sierra coach Joe Pires said. “Not a very good game for us.”
Central Catholic, trailing 2-1 at halftime, scored on a penalty kick in the 51st minute and went ahead in the 65th. For Sierra, Adib Guedoir assisted Tristan Gonzalez’s goal in the 17th minute and converted one of his own in the 31st off a feed from Alejandro Paz.