El Toro's Evan Gonzalez gets a hug from teammate Christopher Denning after the Chargers' loss to Paramount in the CIF Southen California Division I Regional playoffs in Lake Forest on Saturday, March 11, 2017. Denning had to sit out the game because of a concussion. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

El Toro's remarkable run ends with loss to Paramount


LAKE FOREST - After splitting the first two meetings this season, the Paramount and El Toro boys soccer teams met Saturday for their own tiebreaker.

El Toro defeated Paramount in the semifinals of the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs on the way to capturing the title.

In the final of the CIF Southern California Division I Regional playoffs, Paramount exacted a bit of revenge with a 5-1 victory over host El Toro.

The teams also met during the regular season with Paramount (23-5-2) coming away with a 3-1 victory over the Chargers (17-11) on Jan. 4.

“Like I told the kids all week, they took a piece of our hearts in that semifinal,” Paramount coach Rafa Villasenor said. “We just wanted it back. We didn’t go through an easy path to get here. We went out to Clovis and beat the Division 1 champ over there, then L.A. City champion (Granada Hills Charter) and now Southern Section champs with El Toro. I’m so proud of my boys, they fought all year long.

“Today, they were relaxed and they knew we could win on this field.”

The Pirates led 2-0 at halftime, but the Chargers responded early in the second half as Matt Freem headed in a Nathan Morgan throw-in..

However, that was as close as the Chargers would get. Paramount's Chris Perez beat his defender to set up a low shot just out of the reach of El Toro goalkeeper Mac Hutchins for a 3-1 lead.

Paramount scored twice more to put the game firmly away, and fittingly, both teams end the long season with a championship title.

“The boys went through every obstacle,” El Toro assistant coach Carlos Barrios said. “We lost seven straight games (in December) and to come back and win eight straight and to win a CIF ring, words can’t describe what this season meant to our program and community.

“As a coach, I’m proud of my boys.”

Paramount staked control of the game early with Jesus Salazar scoring the first goal in the 11th minute. Salazar also scored off a free kick in the second half.

“He’s been my heart and soul in defense,” Villasenor said of Salazar.

Less than 10 minutes later Ezekiel Novoa put the Pirates up 2-0 with a superb chip goal over the head of Hutchins.

Midway through the first half, El Toro’s Jonathan Bryant was sent off following a foul that in the eyes of the official denied an obvious scoring opportunity. Despite that setback, the Chargers were still dangerous in attack in the second half.

“After our preseason, we weren’t expected to do anything,” Hutchins said. “To be able to have the run we had was special.”

Michael Guerra also scored for Paramount.

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