By: C. Harold Pierce
In the 113th minute of overtime of the Southern California finals, freshman forward Luis Venegas charged toward the box, ball at his feet, and fired. The shot bounced off a Wolverine defender and landed in front of forward Leonardo Contreras. He lofted it into the back corner of the net, leading to a 2-1 win at San Bernardino Valley College.
“The last five minutes of the game, I got a good shot. It deflected off the defense and then Leo Contreras just got itand shot it into the far right corner,” Venegas said.
The duo plays in tandem. Contreras, the Orange Empire Conference MVP, earns most of his assists by setting up Venegas, the state’s leading goal scorer.
The win earned the Dons a place in the California Community College Athletics Association State Final Four.
Contreras and Venegas stretched at the sideline with eight minutes left in the second overtime, waiting to reenter the game.
“We pulled them [Venegas and Contreras] out for a couple of minutes just to get a break and we knew that once we put them back in we had a chance,” Dons Head Coach Jose Vasquez said. “It was back and forth for awhile, and we just caught a good goal by Leo [Contreras] at the end.”
Contreras played a large part in breaking SBVC’s 2-year win streak against the Dons, Wolverines Head Coach Josh Brown said.
The OEC MVP took six shots with two on goal, clinching the win with the deciding score during the game’s second overtime.
“We had our opportunities just like they did, but they had that good one at the end and capitalized on it,” Brown said.
Venegas knocked in the first goal of the game with a header in the 13th minute off a free kick from defender Antonio Solis.
The Dons, known for playing an up tempo style, changed strategy against the Wolverines, slowing things down.
“We did the complete opposite, and we took our chances with that,” Vasquez said. “I think that kind of got them [SBVC] frustrated.”
The Wolverines came back charged after halftime, taking 12 shots with four on goal — more than twice as many attempted in the first half.
The persistence paid off.
Midfielder Alfonso Cano scored the Wolverines’ only goal on a bicycle kick in the 65th minute.
After the tie, the game became increasingly physical, with both teams battling intensely for ball control.
Dons goalkeeper Luis Trujillo grabbed four saves in the second half and seven total. In roughly 300 minutes of playoff soccer he has allowed only two goals.
“These guys are hungry, they know what tradition is, and they know what we have behind us and … they want a part of that,” Vasquez said.