The Oak Hills boys soccer team played host to Sultana in what was one of the most important games of the season for both teams.
Both teams entered the matchup Friday night tied for second place in the Mojave River League standings.
With the final week of the season approaching, the winner of the game could have just about stamped a ticket into the playoffs.
Oak Hills did just that, scoring twice in the first half and held on for a 2-1 victory.
“Going down by two goals is a bad place to be as far as a team goes,” Sultana head coach Paul Mog said. “We got the momentum, we got that one goal, I thought number two was gonna come right behind here pretty soon but it just kind of stopped after that.”
Mog and Oak Hills head coach Adam Caudle echoed similar sentiments on why their teams were fighting it out for second place and not a first-place duel. Both teams lost to the two teams on the bottom of the MRL standings.
Sultana (10-7-3, 4-3-1 MRL) lost to Apple Valley 1-0 last week, while Oak Hills (11-2-6, 5-2-1 MRL) lost to Burroughs 3-2 the previous week.
Meanwhile, Hesperia beat Burroughs 6-0 on Friday afternoon, improving to 6-2 in league play.
“We put ourselves into a hole early this season and what we’ve been just telling the boys is it's one game,” Caudle said.
The last time Oak Hills and Sultana played each other, the game went to a scoreless tie.
About 20 minutes into the first half, Oak Hills went on the attack.
Jordan Guerrero got the first goal after an inward pass from near the 50-yard line by Javier Gonzalez bounced around in front of the penalty box a bit.
Not long after, Ryan Callaway threw the ball inbounds to Angel Delgado Cruz, who passed it to Gonzalez, who kicked it right past Sultana goalkeeper Sebastian Guzman.
Gonzalez celebrated with his team and Caudle, who gave him a big hug afterward. Gonzalez is the only player remaining on the team that won the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 title two seasons ago.
“He wants to win, he wants to fight back from the hole we put ourselves in, and it means a lot to him to earn a win,” Caudle said.
Gonzalez was given another shot soon after to put his team into an even better position to clinch the game early.
A foul by Sultana’s Jesus Mendoza led to Gonzalez getting a one-on-one penalty kick. Gonzalez would have had his second goal of the game if not for an incredible diving stop by Guzman.
As the second half went on, Sultana was fighting to come back from a 2-0 deficit. The Sultans got their break as a cleared ball sailed over the heads of the Oak Hills defenders and landed right to Diego Lemus who passed it to Moises Perez.
Oak Hills goalkeeper Antonio Bataz ran out of the goal to stop the pass and Perez was able to hit it right past him.
For the final 20 minutes, the game became a sprint as Sultana looked to tie the score. Oak Hills’ backline and Bataz were able to fend off the attack from Sultana, even as the game got even more physical towards the end.
Three yellow cards were handed out to Oak Hills in the second half, while one was handed out to Sultana in a most crucial spot. Perez ran into Bataz right after he caught a high ball outside of the goal. With just under five minutes left, Perez immediately walked off the field and threw down his jersey in anger.
Oak Hills was able to hold on for the final five minutes and get the 2-1 victory and sole possession of second place.
With some help by Sultana next week, Oak Hills still has the opportunity to claim the MRL title.
Hesperia’s final two games of the season are at Apple Valley and home versus Sultana next week.
Oak Hills will have to win out against Burroughs and Serrano, while hoping for at least one loss or tie from the Scorpions.
Sultana’s path to the playoffs is the toughest of the three Hesperia schools. With this loss, the Sultans drop to fourth place and finish the season next week against Serrano and Hesperia.
This article originally appeared on Victorville Daily Press: Prep Soccer: Oak Hills tops Sultana in crucial MRL showdown for 2nd place