On the grandest stage for boys soccer in the Central Section, Garces Memorial had to sweat out a penalty kick to win the title.
This time around, the celebration began before extra time even began as the top-seeded Rams defeated No. 3 Shafter 4-0 for the Division IV title on Friday night at Sam Tobias Field.
It’s the second consecutive section championship for Garces after beating Mendota last season.
And once the final whistle blew, the party really got started with the student section storming the field to celebrate.
“It was great. I am just glad I can go out with a bang,” Garces senior Moises Cisneros said. “I love being able to give back to this school and everything it has done for me. This is great. It’s an amazing experience to go back-to-back.”
The Rams went into halftime with a slim 1-0 lead after Alexander Halevy punched in a penalty kick after Cisneros was tripped within in the box, resulting in a yellow card against Shafter (15-2-2).
“I was very confident. I practice PKs,” Halevy said. “I felt comfortable going into it and happy. A very good moment.”
But for the third time in the postseason, the Rams were unable to pull away in the opening half.
“The last few games we’ve had troubles finishing teams off,” Garces coach Robbie Gouk said.
But then the Rams opened up the offense in the second half.
Cisneros scored after a nifty move near the goal. Less than three minutes later, Abraham Gonzalez scored off an assist from Halevy to give the Rams a commanding 3-0 lead with 25 minutes left in the second half.
“We really made it a point at halftime that we need to finish our chances,” Gouk said. “Credit to our team. They stepped up and finished those chances and they know how to play in big games and keep a lead.”
The Rams will now have a week off until the CIF Southern California Regional playoff brackets will be released on March 1.
After winning the state title a year ago in D-V, the Rams (24-2) know the pressure will be even tougher in a higher division this season.
“We hope we can continue with another state run,” Gouk said. “We know it’s not going to be easy.”