Two goal line clearances by Falcon defenders denied the men’s soccer team from scoring in the first half, but Comet center back Edgar Yepes preserved the clean sheet on the other end with a goal line clearance in the second half in Friday’s 0-0 tie at Folsom Lake College.
“The ball got past me and was going into goal (at about minute 70),” freshman Comet goalkeeper Eduardo Escamilla said, “(Yepes) got (to the goal line) in time and saved us the game.”
Entering its ultimate conference game of the season at Folsom, Contra Costa College (12-5-4 overall, 8-1-3 in the Bay Valley Conference) already clinched its second consecutive playoff berth by sealing first place in BVC standings.
Because second place Mendocino College (12-5-4 overall, 6-3-3 in BVC) tied 3-3 at Merritt College on Nov. 10, it was knocked out of contention to be named 2015 BVC champions — a title that is now reserved for the Comets after a 10-year drought.
“It has been about 10 years that the team has been without a conference title,” Escamilla said. “This year is one worth remembering and I am glad to be able to be part of a team that made history since (CCC earning a BVC Championship) has not happened in a long time. It feels good to bring that status and legacy to the team and the college.”
The Comets will play in the first round of the NorCal Regional Playoffs on Saturday. Comet coach Nikki Ferguson said, as of press time on Tuesday, he does not know who they will be playing or where, but the finalized brackets were released on Tuesday and can now be found at cccaasports.org.
“We cannot let our nerves get the best of us, and after the good run we had in season it’s easy for that to happen,” sophomore Comet striker Bryan Vega said. “It feels good to be first in (the BVC) after 10 years without a title and earning another playoff spot.
“But last year we did not make it past the first round of the playoffs (against Fresno City College). We have to use the momentum from this season to carry us further into the playoffs. But nervousness will arise. We just have to be more confident than nervous.”
The Comets finished conference play with 27 points, three points ahead of second place Mendocino, and a .792 win-loss percentage. Each win in conference is worth three points, a loss worth nothing and a tie worth one point.
Vega said playing against Folsom in its final conference game of the season was good preparation for the playoffs as it was a hard fought match under a cloud of heated anticipation.
“We took this game as preparation for the playoffs,” he said. “The atmosphere was great as a lot of people came out to support (Folsom) for their sophomore night. The home crowd and team were pumped up, but so were we.”
At minute 70 in the 0-0 tie, Falcon (5-13-3 overall, 3-6-3 in the Bay Valley Conference) right midfielder lobbed in a 45 degree cross toward a left midfielder who made an overlapping run toward the right edge of the penalty area, sophomore Comet right wing back Alejandro Gonzalez said.
While the ball was in the air, Escamilla said he had rushed off his line to anticipate the headered back pass because the ball was going toward Comet center back Davis Okonkwo.
“I told him to header the ball back to me, but the turf field was still damp and the ball was slippery,” he said. “So when he went up to header the ball, it skimmed his head and in turn went in the air toward the (Folsom) striker.”
Sophomore Comet center defensive midfielder Jesus Villagrana said before the ball could touch the ground the Folsom striker lobbed the ball over Escamilla, who was already near the end of the penalty area, toward the empty goal using his head.
“There was a miscommunication in our defense,” Villagrana said. “(Okonkwo) headered the ball back to (Escamilla) but he did not see the (Folsom) striker. (Escamilla) came off his line but (Yepes) saved it on the (goal) line.”
Gonzalez said the Comets dominated the first half in possession, but Comet striker Alan Morales and center attacking midfielder Jorge Avina had clear shots at minutes 20 and 30 blocked by goal line clearances similar Yepes’ save.
“(Folsom’s) center backs came out of nowhere twice in the first half. We were more organized in the first half and had more chances on goal,” Gonzales said. “But in the second half we played sloppy and there was a huge gap in the between the defense and the midfield. It allowed Folsom to dominate the entire second half.”