CERES — East Union was leaning against the ropes with hands up, chin down and elbow tucked as host Central Valley fired away at will with a salvo of shots.
And the Lancers were winning.
It was early in the second half when much-favored Central Valley closed to within a goal, 3-2, and threatened to tie it up the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV semifinal Tuesday.
By the midway point of the second half, East Union was outshot 12-0 and in desperate need of a spark.
Scott Fisher turned the tide with a breakaway goal, as the Lancers weathered the onslaught and surged to a stunning 5-2 victory that vaults them into Saturday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV finals for the first time in school history.
Fisher is the least skilled of the three primary strikers that East Union (15-7-2) employs, but he is also the fastest. It was that speed combined with hustle and sheer determination that helped him net the big goal in the 64th minute.
He worked his way through Central Valley defenders Rolando Lozano and Hugo Contreras and penetrated the penalty area with goalkeeper Andrez Cazares left to beat. The Hawks goalie charged at Fisher and deflected the initial shot attempt with a kick save. Fisher chased down the ball as it headed toward the right post and banged it in.
“I just knew I had to score,” Fisher said. “It was still a close game and I did what I had to do. It was a good feeling.”
Three minutes later, Victor Garibay tallied his second head goal of the contest to put it out of reach, finishing off a throw-in delivered by Jordan Kron, who notched his third assist on the play. Miguel Barbosa (fourth minute) and Cruz Hernandez (39th) each scored in the first half.
“We knew that they are a tough team,” East Union goalkeeper Dominic Riella said of Central Valley (20-2-1), which came in ranked fourth in the state and 20th in the nation by MaxPreps.com.
“They kind of woke up (for the second half) and were gaining on us. I was worried, but we came around like we always do.”
Talented junior Daniel Ochoa, the section’s second-leading goal scorer, gave the Lancers reason to worry. In both halves he blasted some impressive shots from near and far with pace and movement. It was his header — set up by a perfect cross from Juan Medrano — seven minutes into the second half that got the Hawks going.
Omar Orozco accounted for Central Valley’s first goal in the 22nd minute, which made it, 2-1.
“It was extremely nerve-wracking,” Riella said of the Hawks’ second-half flurry. “It was pretty obvious that he was going to get his shots, so I definitely had to watch out for him. I just had to do my job, and the defense did their job.”
East Union goes from one juggernaut to another. Unbeaten Vista del Lago (17-0-1) crushed Sierra 5-0 in the other semifinal, and the two will tangle for the championship at Lincoln High of Stockton. The match is scheduled to kick off at noon.
Vista del Lago came back from a two-goal deficit to upend Central Valley 3-2 in last year’s Division-IV finale. The Eagles of Folsom are ranked third in California and 19th in the country.
Saturday’s game will be a special one for 10th-year East Union coach Clarence Goes, for it will be his last. Assistant coach Victor Polanco will take over next year.
“It’s a wonderful feeling,” Goes said. “I’m very excited and very happy for these kids to make it this far. To me, what we have done this year is a great accomplishment no matter what happens on Saturday.”