Hilltop (9-1-3) tops Valhalla, 1-0, to win Grossmont tournament title

The Hilltop High School boys soccer team extended its current unbeaten streak to 12 games (9-0-3) after winning the Premier B bracket championship at this year's 42nd annual Grossmont Holiday tournament. Photo by Phillip Brents

The word “champion” is written all over the backs of sweatshirts sported by Hilltop High School’s boys soccer team.

Between 1964-2016, the Lancers collected 13 league championships, three CIF runner-up finishes and three CIF championships.

Hilltop bagged its second consecutive Grossmont Holiday Classic tournament title by edging the Valhalla Norsemen, 1-0, Monday at Santana High School to win the Premier B Division bracket.

The East County tournament, in its 42nd edition, is the longest high school boys soccer tournament in the state.

Senior Marcos Calderon scored with 23 minutes left in regulation to snap a scoreless tie between the teams to enable to Lancers to improve to 9-1-3 on the season.

Seniors Gael Ruiz and Christopher Villasenor were each credited with assists on the game-wining play. Junior goalkeeper Erik Acosta received credit for the shutout victory by posting several key saves, including one punch-out over the crossbar.

Hilltop’s Pablo Farias goes up for a cross during Monday’s championship game. Photo by Phillip Brents

Calderon is the team’s second-leading scorer and top assist maker. Ruiz is the team’s overall scoring leader.

Hilltop head coach John Salts called the tournament championship victory a “tale of two halves.”

“We played with 100 percent heart and so did the other team,” Salts said. “We just have to keep playing disciplined.

“Last year we beat Ramona, 1-0, to win the Gold Division bracket in this tournament and it was a tough game, too. We have amazing talent and amazing heart. But we have to play disciplined soccer (to be successful). We’re super proud to have won back-to-back titles.”

Monday’s tournament championship extended the Lancers’ unbeaten streak to 12 games (9-0-3) after opening the season with a 4-1 non-league loss at Riverside King on Dec. 3.

Hilltop’s unbeaten streak started the following day with a 3-0 victory at Temecula Great Oak. The Lancers followed with non-tournament wins over Madison (4-0 on Dec. 6), Grossmont (1-0 on Dec. 9), Kearny (6-0 on Dec. 12) and Chula Vista Learning Community Charter (3-0 on Dec. 19).

Hilltop players celebrate game-winning goal in Monday’s tournament championship game against Valhalla. Photo by Phillip Brents

Hilltop kicked off tournament play Dec. 14 with a pair of 1-1 draws against Southwest El Centro and defending San Diego Section Division III champion West Hills.

The Lancers topped Helix, 4-2, in their final pool game on Dec. 21 in a game played at Helix High School before defeating Montgomery, 3-1, later that evening in the semifinals at Granite Hills High School.

Calderon scored two goals in the win over Helix while Villasenor and Pablo Farias both scored once.

Ruiz, Villasenor and Calderon all scored goals in the win over Montgomery while Acosta made five saves.

“Our only loss has been the first game of the season when we only had one team practice,” Salts noted. “We had 25 shots on goal and they had eight. We just weren’t synching.

“The talent level is very strong this year. We have a lot of four-year varsity players. The core of the team has been playing club and high school for a long time. We have strong leadership.”

The Lancers also have strong motivation for the 2019-20 campaign after earning the No. 2 seed in last season’s Division IV playoffs and bowing out with a 2-1 upset loss to seventh-seeded San Diego Jewish Academy in their first game.

Gael Ruiz (7) leads Hilltop in overall scoring this season. Photo by Phillip Brents

Corner kicks
Valhalla (6-5-2) defeated West Hills, 3-0, in the tournament semifinals to advance to meet Hilltop in the final.

Clairemont defeated Holtville, 3-0, to win the tournament’s Purple Division title while Grossmont edged Monte Vista, 2-1, in a penalty kick shootout to win the Gold Division championship.

Grossmont won the shootout tiebreaker 4-2 over the Monarchs (6-1-1). Jackson Endres scored the winning shootout goal for the Foothillers (8-2-1).

Santana (5-3-2) defeated Rancho Bernardo, 1-0, to win the Premier A bracket. Senior Lane Dukes scored he game-winner while sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Peterson earned Player of the Game honors with 14 saves.

This year’s Grossmont tournament featured 32 varsity teams and 24 junior varsity teams

Hilltop successfully defended its JV tournament title with a 3-2 win over Grossmont Dec. 14 at West Hills High School. The Lancers finished 4-0 in their Gold Division bracket.

Hilltop defeated visiting Bonita Vista, 3-1, on Dec. 16 in a non-league rivalry match. Calderon scored two goals while Ruiz had one goal and one assist.


The Grossmont Foothillers captured the Gold Division championship title of this year’s Grossmont Holiday Classic. Photo by Phillip Brents

Foothillers, Sultans see big turnarounds as season kicks off

The Gold Division tournament title was especially gratifying for the Grossmont, which improved to 8-2-1 on the season after plodding through a 2-11-6 finish the previous 2018-19 season.

It appears the Foothillers have reloaded with a vengeance.

Grossmont’s Marcus Austin goes high to deflect a crossing pass. Photo by Phillip Brents

“We have 12 seniors — we have a lot of returners,” first-year Grossmont head coach Jeff Harns said. “Our expectations are to compete for the league championship and make a run into the playoffs.”

Grossmont finished 5-0 in the tournament, defeating Chula Vista and Vincent Memorial by scores of 2-1 and 7-0, respectively, in opening pool matches on Dec. 14.

The Foothillers shut out Steele Canyon, 2-0, in the final round of pool play on Dec. 21 and moved directly to the tournament semifinals later that evening, defeating Olympian, 3-1, to advance to the championship round.

Monte Vista carried a 6-0-1 record into the championship game after defeating Ramona (3-1), Olympian (1-0) and Brawley (3-1) in pool play and then topping Steele Canyon, 4-0, in the semifinals.

Though scoring opportunities abounded in the championship game between the Foothillers and Monarchs, the teams battled through a 1-1 regulation and overtime deadlock before advancing to the kicks-from-the-mark penalty tiebreaker.

Regulation play featured back-and-forth attacking styles in a light rain at times. Photos by Phillip Brents

Monte Vista senior goalkeeper Bryce Kempton blocked Grossmont’s first shot and teammate Juan Castillo scored to stake the Monarchs to a 1-0 lead.

Both teams scored in the next round as Monte Vista maintained a 2-1 edge. Francisco Nava scored on Grossmont’s third attempt while Foothiller goalkeeper Adam Richmond made a save to even the count at 2-2.

Axel Gonzalez made his shot to give Grossmont a 3-2 lead. Following another save by Richmond, the Foothillers secured the win when senior captain Jackson Endres scored to set off a boisterous celebration among his teammates.

“New coach, new season,” Endres said with a broad smile after the championship game victory. “I was thinking about my confidence and where I was going to place it. I was looking center but went to the left. It feels great to be able to do this for the team.”

Grossmont senior captain Jackson Endres scored the decisive shootout goal to enable the Foothillers to capture the Gold Division championship. Photos by Phillip Brents

Harns attributed the team’s turnaround to its senior core.

“We have strong leadership,” the Grossmont coach explained. “The kids believe in each other. Things are starting to fall our way.”

Nick Collantes scored in regulation play for the Foothillers while Castillo bulged twine for the Monarchs to set the teams’ marathon cliffhanger in motion.

Foothillers Jackson Endres, left, and Adam Richmond showcase 2019 Grossmont Holiday Classic Gold Division championship trophy. Photo by Phillip Brents

While the loss was the first of the season for Monte Vista, the Spring Valley team promptly got back in the win column with a 2-0 win over Castle Park in the opening game of the SoCal Classic at El Camino High School on Dec. 27.

Santana improved to 5-3-2 with its championship game victory against Rancho Bernardo. The Sultans finished pool play with two wins (3-0 over Central Union and 2-1 over Calexico) and one tie (2-2 against Rancho Bernardo).

From left, Davin Burroughs, Andrew Peterson and Lane Dukes figured prominently in Santana’s championship odyssey. Photo sby Phillip Brents

Santana edged Calexico, 2-1, in the semifinals on goals by senior Lane Dukes and junior Davin Burroughs, with the game-winner coming in the 75th minute.

Only one goal was scored in the finals rematch between the Sultans and Broncos – that by Dukes in the first half, assisted by senior Nick Valentine.

Sultan sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Peterson earned player of the game honors with 14 saves to record the shutout win.

Santana coach Luke Phillips said his team appears only now starting to come together.

“We were missing eight players from our football team,” said Phillips, whose team kicked off the season with a 1-3 record. “It took us a while to gel. Now we’re rolling.”

Rancho Bernardo shut out Canyon Crest Academy, last year’s division champion, by a 3-0 score in the semifinals.

Valhalla defeated West Hills, last season’s San Diego Section Division III champions, by a score of 3-0 in the Gold Division semifinals after finishing pool play with wins over Steele Canyon and Granite Hills and a loss to Montgomery.

But the Norsemen fell in the final to third-ranked Hilltop on a goal by Marcos Calderon in the 57th minute.



The Lancers are hosting the San Diego County Cup/Quin Murphy Tournament though the scheduled has been affected by rainouts. Levels include freshmen (eight teams), JV (eight teams) and varsity (12 teams).

The tournament was originally slated to concluded on Saturday, Dec. 28. However, due to excessive rain Wednesday night, several games could not be played at Hilltop High School due to field flooding.

Three games have been rescheduled for Friday at Santana High School: Hilltop vs. Santana at 9 a.m. (varsity), Hilltop vs. Santana at 11 a.m. (JV) and Santana vs. San Ysidro at 1 p.m. (varsity).

Each varsity team will play two pool games.

Semifinals, which were originally scheduled to be played Friday at Hilltop High School, will now be played Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. with the same time schedule.

Varsity championship games are are now scheduled Jan. 11 at Hilltop High School.

The schedule remains the same for lower levels. JV finals are Saturday at Otay Ranch and Hilltop high schools from 8 10 10 a.m. Freshman finals are at Montgomery High School from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Hilltop kicks off South Bay League play Jan. 8 at Mater Dei Catholic High School.