CARMICHAEL — Lionardo Ruiz looked like he had set the tone for the Tokay High boys soccer team in Thursday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I quarterfinal playoff game.
But the Jesuit High squad altered the Tigers’ plans, and stumped the sixth-seeded Tigers with a 3-1 win at Hanson McClain Advisors Stadium. Jesuit, the No. 3 seed, advances to the semifinals and will play at No. 2 Pitman of Turlock, which beat No. 7 Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills 5-4 on penalty kicks; that contest ended at 1-1 after regulation.
This was the second consecutive year that Tokay and No. 3 Jesuit (21-2-3) met in the D-I quarterfinals. Jesuit defeated Tokay 6-5 on penalty kicks in last year’s game; the Tigers and Marauders ended the game in a 2-2 tie.
Ruiz, a three-year starter at striker, gave Tokay (17-2-2) a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute. Fouled inside the box, Ruiz lined up for a free kick from the spot of the foul. Facing a wall of a half-dozen Jesuit players in front of their goalie Frankie Turnbull, Ruiz’s line-drive shot curved and sailed into the center of the net.
“He’s been finishing every time for us,” said Tokay coach Ruben Gomez, whose Tigers won their third consecutive Tri-City Athletic League title earlier this month. “That’s what he does. The coaches and everyone knew; he was marked.”
In the 24th minute, Jesuit defender Mac Carter tied the game at 1-1. On the west side of the stadium, Carter and half-dozen Marauder players battled for the soccer ball on the left side of the goal. Carter got control of the ball and slipped the ball into the right corner of the net.
“We had them,” Gomez said. “We gave up that goal on a set play.”
The tone of the game changed against the Tigers and favored Jesuit a minute later. Tokay midfielder Luis Baez was given a red card for what one of the game’s three officials called for spitting on a Jesuit player. The Tigers were forced to play the rest of the game with only nine players on the field and goalie Cristian Valencia.
“Definitely when we got the red card that hurt us,” Gomez said. “Playing with only 10 guys, that’s a huge difference.”
That led to Gomez altering the Tigers’ offensive attack the rest of the first half and entering the second.
“We tried different strategies, hoping that we can score, not give up a goal,” Gomez said. “Take our chances on the penalty kicks again.”
One of the moves the Tigers made was take out a forward, putting Ruiz on top and rotating midfielders for possible mismatches against the Marauders.
“Hopefully we could counter; send Lio and either score a goal or keep them at 1-1 and take our chances in overtime and penalty kicks.”
The game remained tied until the 61st minute. That’s when Jesuit midfielder Julian Churchill, who was able to take advantage of another loose ball in front of the Tigers’ box, for a goal and 2-1 lead.
At the 73rd minute, Jesuit made it 3-1 when midfielder Luke Bone fired a shot into the back of the net.
Tokay continued to battle in the final seven minutes of the game. That included another free kick in the 79th minute by Ruiz. Another line-drive shot, this time Turnbull caught the shot and put the ball back into play.
Ruiz had three of the Tigers’ seven shots on goal in the game. Midfielder Sebastian Quiroz had two, and Tokay teammates Fynn Kreuder and Eduardo Guillen had one each. Valencia had three saves.
Good sportsmanship was shown by both teams after the game. After shaking hands at midfield, both teams thanked their opponents’ fans for attending the game by clapping and voicing their thanks.
Then Gomez, his assistant coaches and players met near their bench. Gomez thanked the players for their hard work they put in to prepare for the season with club soccer last fall and summer.
“Walk off with your head high,” Gomez told his players. “We had a heck of a run. As I say you want to go further every time. We had a tremendous season. It’s been a great run.”
Gomez loses 19 seniors on this year’s squad to graduation. There are only eight juniors, sophomores and freshmen on the roster; the underclassmen were moved up for the playoffs. Some of the returning players are Kreuder and Guillen, both of whom are juniors. The Tokay junior varsity boys squad also won the TCAL title.
“There are some keys players that are coming up,” Gomez said. “We’ll be a younger team but we have some key players returning.”
Contact Mike Bush at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.