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St. Francis Delivers Message to Diamond Ranch


CERRITOS — At a team dinner Friday night, St. Francis High players got a pep talk from assistant coach Pete Vagenas--a member of the Golden Knights' 1996 Southern Section championship soccer team who plays for the Galaxy.

Vagenas told them to treat the most important game of their lives like any other game once the whistle blew.

Although Vagenas wasn't on the sidelines, his message got through as St. Francis played fearlessly in a 3-1 victory over Diamond Ranch on Saturday at Gahr High in the Southern Section Division IV boys' championship game.

"Pete joked that four players from his team of a few years ago would've taken all 20 of these kids and that fired them up a bit," St. Francis Coach Glen Appels said.

Vagenas was unable to attend the game because he was at the Rose Bowl, where the U.S. national team was playing Brazil.

However, his advice helped Ryan Shaw score two goals--including the game-winner--to increase his season total to 30 and his career total to 80, both school records.

"Both of my goals came on counterattacks and that was our game plan against them," said Shaw, who took advice from Vagenas about handling big-game pressure. "The way they play, they like to keep possession and push everyone forward. But that leaves them vulnerable in the back."

The third-seeded Golden Knights (23-5) scored twice in less than a minute late in the first half.

"It was kind of a shock to our defense to get scored on first," said Coach Juan Sanchez of Diamond Ranch (24-7-1), whose fourth-seeded team posted 20 shutouts in its 24 victories. "We had them on the ropes for a while, then we just fell asleep for a second and boom, boom--they score two goals. Actually, we only made three mistakes on defense all game and they scored on all of them."

St. Francis took the lead in the 34th minute when Luke Postlewaite dribbled into the penalty area, faked a shot, then passed to Joah Kederian, who drilled a low ball into the left corner of the net.

Sweeper Jeff Fawcett intercepted on the ensuing kick-off and chipped a high pass on the right wing in front of Shaw, who out-raced goalkeeper Daniel Hentges to the ball and scored from a sharp angle.

Shaw nearly scored again just before halftime, but his point-blank shot caromed off the crossbar.

"Our game plan was to be very physical," said goalie Sean O'Connor of St. Francis, who made 10 saves and finished the season with 13 shutouts. "They are a skilled team individually and we knew the only way to counter that was to play them tight and try to throw them off a bit."

Diamond Ranch was forced to play the last 12 minutes with 10 players after Michael Reighter was red-carded for arguing with the referee.

Diamond Bar had a chance to close within a goal when defender Justin Duncan of St. Francis was whistled for a handball in the Golden Knights' penalty box with 10 minutes remaining. But Carlos Diaz' penalty kick sailed wide.

"The nicest thing is that our seniors can say they won their last game as a Golden Knight," Appels said. "It's tough to end your year with a loss and 74 teams in our division had to do that."

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