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Just do it — Titans capture SoCal Classic title Phillip Brents | Fri, Jan 17 2014 01:50 PM

The Eastlake High School boys soccer team kicked off the 2012-13 season on a high note but couldn’t match its promising start. The Titans are back at it again, and hope to finish the second half as strong as the first in 2013-14.

“Eastlake has never won a league championship before — putting a banner up is our main goal,” EHS second-year coach Jason Renfro said.

The Titans served notice they may be a team to contend with after winning the 12-team boys elite bracket in the recent 19th annual Southern California Classic. Eastlake defeated Newport Harbor, 3-2, in the championship game Dec. 30 in Oceanside to cap a 4-0-1 showing in the tournament and a 7-2-2 start to the season.

It’s a step up for the program, according to Renfro.

“This is the first year that Eastlake has had a freshman team,” the EHS coach said. “We have 65 kids in the program. Last year we had 45. We’re maintaining a positive atmosphere in the school. One hundred kids try out and we’re keeping 65 and not 45. It’s proven that kids do better in school if they have an incentive to stay in school. It’s only going to get better.”

The Titans kicked off tournament play Dec. 27 with a 1-0 victory against Desert Vista from Phoenix. Oscar Hernandez scored the game’s lone goal in the second half while Jose Cervantes was credited with the shutout win.

The bracket featured four three-team pools, meaning Eastlake only needed a tie in its next match against Fallbrook to advance to the tournament playoffs. The Titans tied the Warriors 1-1 on a goal by Hernandez.

Eastlake faced West Hills in the quarterfinals and captured a 2-0 victory on goals by Julio Huerta and Adrian Romo and another shutout goalkeeping performance by Cervantes.

The Titans advanced to the semifinals against Arcadia and it took two overtimes to decide a winner as the teams played to a scoreless tie through regulation. The overtime format featured two 10-minute periods. The Titans scored the game-winner with eight minutes left in the second OT period.

Naeem Muhammad tapped in the game-winning goal between the legs of the Arcadia goalkeeper to cap a dramatic victory. Cervantes was once again solid in the net with the shutout win.

The two pool games took place on Dec. 27 and the quarterfinal and semifinal playoff matches took place Dec. 28.

The Fallbrook match ended after 10 p.m. and the Titans had to return to North County the following morning for an 8 a.m. match against West Hills.

In the final against Newport Harbor, the teams played to a 1-1 halftime standoff before Eastlake punched in a pair of goals to go up 3-1.

Muhammad made the score 1-0 Titans early on while Luis Banuelos scored the 2-1 go-ahead goal and Josue Cueva slipped a shot under the crossbar to make it 3-1.

“Newport Harbor scored again but we held them off to get the win,” Renfro said.

Banuelos leads the team with six goals while Cueva has scored three goals and Hernandez, Muhammad and Adolfo Garcia-Soriano have each scored two goals.

Cervantes has allowed six goals in eight games with three shutouts to go with an 0.835 goals-against average.

Twenty players are rostered on this season’s varsity team, including 12 seniors.

“We have a heavy senior class,” Renfro said. “We had a good start to the season with three wins and one tie. We dropped a couple of games (3-1 to Mira Mesa and 4-3 to Chula Vista High Tech) but came back after Christmas to win the tournament.

“We had a couple of injuries but brought up two players from the junior varsity team to help us. It shows the depth we have in the program. This showed the strength and character of the team. I tell the kids that we’re only as good as the last player on the bench.”

The Titans were scheduled to return to action with a non-league game Thursday at Mar Vista and will host San Diego in another non-league match on Jan. 10. Eastlake kicks off Metro-Mesa League play Jan. 22 with a game at Mater Dei Catholic.

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