Modesto High boys soccer team clinches MMC championship during tripleheader

bvanderbeek@modbee.comOctober 29, 2013 

— Modesto High went into Wednesday night hoping for a big moment — the clinching of the Modesto Metro Conference title.

They got it without having to step on the field.

Gregori, needing a win to have a shot at catching the Panthers, drew 1-1 with Downey. The tie clinched the MMC title for Modesto, while Gregori used the single point to wrap up the MMC's No. 2 seed in the upcoming Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

Modesto, with nothing to play for but to avenge an earlier loss to Davis, then went out and notched its own 1-1 tie with the Spartans.

"Maybe it was in the back of their heads that they'd already clinched, but I know these guys wanted to clinch it on a win," said Modesto coach Matthew Mendes. "I don't know if we let down, because we knew we were going to face a good team."

In the first game of a tripleheader, Johansen took care of winless Beyer 3-0 behind two goals by Ozzy Mora, a win that kept the Vikings' hopes alive for the postseason.

So while it's settled that Modesto will finish first and Gregori second in the MMC — spots that should yield first-round home playoff games for both — the battle for third place is wide open.

On Thursday, Davis (5-4-2, 17 points) hosts Enochs (5-6, 15 points) while Downey (5-5-1, 16 points) meets Beyer and Modesto (8-2-1) battles Johansen (5-4-2, 17 points.)

There are permutations in the results of those games that could boost Davis, Johansen, Downey or Enochs into that third playoff spot, but it's safe to say that no team in the MMC has come as far this season as Davis.

The Spartans went 1-10-1 last year, but under new coach Erika Watson and with a roster filled with juniors, the team not only was extremely competitive but was the only MMC team not to yield a win to the conference champions.

"They beat us the first time and outplayed us much of the second half tonight," Mendes said. "They're a really good, quality team that plays together really well."

Modesto took a 1-0 lead in the 46th minute when senior Reilly Blickenstaff dribbled to the right edge of the box and fed junior Julio Corona with a perfect cross on which Davis keeper Ignacio Arroyo had no chance.

Davis got the equalizer 16 minutes later when, after an extended flurry in front of the goal, Fermin Chaldez controlled the ball just enough to feed Cristan Yepez from point-blank range.

In the middle game, Gregori and Downey played a scoreless first half broken by Nick Vander Veen's score. With 12 minutes left, and after the host Knights had lost a player to a red card, Alexis Fierro controlled a chest-high pass about 8 yards out, then flipped it neatly and blindly over his left shoulder to forge the tie.

As was the case with Modesto already knowing it had won the league, Gregori's players entered their game knowing a tie sealed second place.

"You never tell high school kids that you only need a tie, and we didn't come in saying that," said Gregori coach Ethan Duewell. "They're intelligent enough to pay attention. But, yes, we did know that all we needed was a tie.

"We would have loved to win and seen Modesto lose tonight, but I don't think they were going to lose again on Thursday. Realistically, we wanted to be a second-place team instead of a third-place team, because third-place teams are on the road somewhere. We have a chance to draw a home game."

That's part of the waiting game that Modesto, Gregori and Thursday's survivor will be facing. The section will be releasing playoff brackets on Friday and no team will know its first round opponent until then. At this point, Gregori doesn't as much as know whether it will be Division 1 or 2.

"I've taken a peek at some of the big enrollment schools we could be facing, but you never know," Mendes said. "There's a good chance we'll be hosting, so that's a good thing."

Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150 or follow him on Twitter, @modestobeek

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