Sports

Shorthanded Highlanders fall after late surge by Sunny Hills

LHHSSoccerby Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

A man down, and running on fumes, the La Habra boys’ soccer team fell to Sunny Hills 3-1, in an overtime game, Friday afternoon at Sunny Hills High.

The Highlanders took a lead midway through the first half and held it through most of the second half.

However, forward Joe Salinas was issued a second yellow card on a soft foul in the 71st minute, which forced the Highlanders to play with 10 men the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, fouls by the Lancers that caused injuries to Charlie Aleman and Eric Sandoval went uncalled.

“I think the refs played a part in this, in my opinion they weren’t being too consistent, but soccer is like that, you have to learn to work around the refs,” said Earvin Aleman, La Habra co-coach. “Having to play down a man for 30 minutes, it takes a toll.”

Sunny Hills capitalized on the man advantage in the 75th minute when forward Osiris Garfias knocked in a header to the far side off a free kick. The teams were tied 1-1 at the end of regulation.

The Lancers held momentum and in the 87th minute, Garfias tallied the game-winner when he redirected a throw-in to the far side of the net.

Sunny Hills tacked on one more goal in the second overtime period when a shot deflected off a defender and skipped into the near side.

“I thought we showed toughness throughout the game, but when Joe got the red, it was a big blow to the team,” Aleman said. “But they played, they hustled, I’m proud of them. Compared to the Fullerton game, I thought this was a different team.”

The surge by Sunny Hills negated a well-played first half by the Highlanders, who connected passes and worked together to push the ball into the offensive third.

In the 27th minute, Israel Alvarez took a free kick that hooked and hit the near-side post, but Kolby McInally was there for the rebound and put in an easy header.

“We hadn’t really tested the goalie, so we wanted to just get a shot,” Aleman said. “We found a chance and we put it away.”

Defensively, goalkeeper Richie Ruiz put the Highlanders in some dicey situations by attempting to come out of position to grab a loose ball, but La Habra’s defenders recognized and put themselves in positions to protect the goal.

Aleman was there in the 25th minute to clear a header in one such situation.

Sunny Hills pushed harder in the second half, but the Highlanders weathered the storm until Salinas’ second yellow card.

The Highlanders will continue league play with a home game against Troy, next Wednesday at 3 p.m.

“We’re going to come out and play the same style, I thought we defended well, we just have to work on defending set pieces,” Aleman said. “If we can improve upon that, we should do well.”

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.