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Weston Ranch earns return trip to D4 title game
Members of the Weston Ranch soccer team give kudos to the home crowd following their 2-0 Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinal win over Natomas. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

STOCKTON — Weston Ranch put up two first-half goals and outshot visiting Natomas 17-8 on the way to a 2-0 win for the Cougars in semifinal action of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV soccer playoffs Wednesday.

Fifth-seeded Livingston stunned No. 1 Galt, the reigning Division V champion, 2-0 Wednesday and will play No. 2 Weston Ranch for the section title Saturday at 2 p.m. at Stagg High School in Stockton. This is the second trip in as many years to the finals for the Cougars, who were edged 3-2 by Liberty Ranch in the 2013 championship game.

“We still have that bad taste in our mouth from last year and it has been there all season long,” Weston Ranch coach Francisco Cisneros said. “We just wanted another shot at it and whatever happens happens. We will go there and play our game and see where that takes us.

“They were a good team – all the teams in the playoffs are good teams – and I felt our guys responded extremely well to them tonight.”

The Cougars (23-2-3) got their second goal via a double header. Arthur Garcia took a throw in from Hector Maldonado started who headed it to Angel Portillo and Portillo tapped it into the net with his head for a 2-0 Weston Ranch lead in the 34thminute.

“Earlier in the season I remember doing another double header,” Portillo said. “I would like to thank by godbrother Arthur for getting me the assist.

“I am very happy for this win and to score a goal in my last home game.”

The Cougars got on the board first in the sixth minute when Kevin Medina arced a pass from 30 yards out to Omar Centeno who headed the ball into the net for a 1-0 Weston Ranch lead.

“Kevin got the ball and got a great cross past the goalie,” Centeno said. “I got it off my head and it went in.

“I closed my eyes and when I opened them it was in the net already.”

That quick goal helped take the crowd out of the game for the Nighthawks (14-5-3).

“One of the things we talked about just before we came out was how big their crowd was,” Cisneros said. “We felt it was key to get an early goal to keep the crowd out of it because they were alive and cheering from the start.

“I thought the guys did a great job in not letting the crowd become a factor.”