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BETWEEN THE LINES

This Soccer Match Stood the Test of Time

March 08, 1997

Long before the Xtreme Games started and more than a decade before the first Los Angeles Marathon, there was a City Section boys' soccer playoff game that equaled either as a test of sanity and endurance.

The semifinal match between Van Nuys High and Venice took place 22 years ago. It kicked off at 2:30 p.m and ended five hours later, after regulation play and nine overtimes. Armando Avila scored for Van Nuys to secure an exhausting 2-1 victory at Venice.

The star of the 1975 Van Nuys team was current Granada Hills Coach Wilson Herrera, 39, who vividly remembers the game. "We had 15 or 16 guys on the team that year and almost all of them got in because guys kept cramping up," said Herrera, the City Section player of the year in 1975 and 1976. "I had [cramps] too, but I made myself play the whole time."

Herrera, the team's sweeper and last line of defense, was also counted on for offense. He converted a penalty kick for Van Nuys' first goal, but he was unable to break the deadlock in regulation or in the overtimes.

"I just hoped it wouldn't be my fault if we lost," Herrera said. "They put a lot of responsibility on me."

Van Nuys fell to San Pedro in the 1975 title match and was beaten in the semifinals in a rematch with Venice the following year. Nonetheless, Herrera fondly remembers his days running with the Wolves.

"It was a lot of fun," he said. "Everyone at school wanted us to do well and wanted to talk to us about [the 1975 semifinal]. It made us feel like big stars."

Herrera, in his first year as coach at Granada Hills, hopes that his passion for soccer energizes the Highlanders, who were 3-9-5.

"I want a team that will play with heart," Herrera said. "You have to love the game."

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