Here is James Burns report for The Modesto Bee on the Division III soccer matched played today at Lincoln of Stockton.The cheers started in with three minutes left, building slowly into a roar from the opposite stands.
"RV! ... RV! ... RV!"
Reality set in shortly thereafter -- that winner's chant was clearly not intended for Central Valley.
Captain Anthony Calvo buried his head in his hands, and four-year varsity player Samuel Martinez searched the clear sky above Lincoln High's football stadium, wondering where the black cloud was.
For the third time in four years, Central Valley, one of the Stanislaus District's winningest programs in the last five years, stumbled in the section championship match.
This time, a scrappy, kick-and-defend group from River Valley clipped the Hawks.
Final score: 2-0.
Alfredo Hernandez scored twice on counterattacks, Triston Montoya had three saves, and the Falcons sunk as many as seven defenders behind the ball en route to the school's first section championship.
Meanwhile, the Hawks (24-3-2) collected their third runner-up plaque after dominating the run of play for most of the match.
"We worked hard all season for this game. We won our league again. Our only objective was to win a section championship," said Martinez, a fixture in all three of the Hawks' section final losses.
"This is a curse or something. It's my senior year, and no section title? It sucks."
It was stunning, for sure. The Hawks owned an advantage in talent, ball possession and chances, despite playing without Western Athletic Conference MVP Ozzie Ramos, who was at a college showcase on the East Coast.
"The best team doesn't always win," head coach Omar Leon said moments after his club lost for the third time in 29 games. "I think we dominated, just didn't finish."
The Hawks pinged the ball around Lincoln's fast artificial surface, with Calvo, Juan Martinez, Samuel Martinez and Juan Medrano controlling the middle third of the field.
But the Falcons (10-2-3) were content to play defense, committing five, six and seven players to the penalty area. This left little space for forwards Omar Orozco (19 goals) and Diego Duran (22 goals) to create.
Neither player was a threat to Montoya. Duran's header in the penalty area in the 65th minute found Juan Hernandez at the back post, but the shot came off his foot limp.
Minutes later, Hernandez celebrated his second goal and Central Valley -- a team that played with poise and control for most of the match -- came unglued.
Juan Martinez was hit with a red card following the goal, leaving CV a man down for the final 11-plus minutes.
River Valley relied on the counterattack for its offense.
Hernandez was allowed to run onto a bouncing ball in the 38th minute.
Rather than settle the ball and let CV organize, Hernandez struck a 25-yard volley that caught David Saucedo by surprise.
It was River Valley's only shot on goal in the first half.
With Central Valley pressing, Hernandez tacked on the insurance goal in the 69th minute.
Melad Rahim released Ivan Lopez with a long clearance down the left sideline, a tantalizing ball that drew Saucedo off his line.
Lopez flicked the ball back toward the middle of the field, where Hernandez touched it into an open net.
"This will always be a memory," Samuel Martinez said with a long face. "This is always going to stay with me."