ATWATER -- With a crucial Central California Conference match awaiting against its rival Thursday night, it would have been easy for Buhach Colony High to look past Tuesday's foe.
The Thunder resisted the urge, however, as Austin Schwalbach scored a goal and had an assist to lift The Bee's top-ranked large-school team to a 3-0 victory over Golden Valley.
The win, combined with Atwater's 4-1 win over Merced, set up Thursday's showdown at 7 p.m. at Atwater High.
Buhach Colony (15-1-4, 9-0-2 CCC) is in first place with 29 points, while defending conference champ Atwater (8-0-3) is in second with 27. Atwater must win to claim the title, while Buhach Colony wins the title with a win or a draw.
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Both teams are guaranteed berths in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs, though the champion gets a beneficial draw. The top team opens at home on Nov. 2 against the Modesto Metro Conference runner-up, while the CCC's No. 2 travels to play the MMC champ.
ESCALON 2, HUGHSON 0, at Escalon -- Jose Mancilla scored twice, and Julio Farias and Bill Cervantes had two saves apiece to lead the Cougars (12-1 Trans-Valley League) past the Huskies (0-13).
The Cougars have secured a Division IV playoff berth, though they could advance as the No. 1 or No. 2 team, depending on the outcome of their upcoming match with second-place Riverbank.
The TVL champ hosts the Mother Lode League's third-place team in its first-round game on Nov. 6, while the second- and third-place teams travel to play league champions.
RIVERBANK 8, RIPON CHR. 0, at Ripon -- Christian Albor had his first hat trick of the season, helping the Bruins (13-5, 11-2 TVL) beat the Knights (2-13) and clinch a playoff berth. The Bruins' final two regular-season matches are against first-place Escalon (12-1) and third-place Ripon (9-4).
RIPON 7, MODESTO CHR. 2, at Ripon -- Eric Cavanugh and Joel Robles each celebrated a hat trick, and the Indians (15-5-1, 9-4 TVL) clinched a playoff berth by beating the Crusaders (9-8-1, 5-8). Cavanaugh also was generous with the ball, passing out two assists, while Ryan Martinsen also assisted two goals.
SONORA 2, EAST UNION 1, at Sonora -- Josh Abbott and Jordan Dahlgren booted in second-half goals as the Wildcats (5-7 VOL) rallied past the Lancers. Adrian Quant had given the Lancers a 1-0 lead in the first half, then EU missed scoring opportunities late in the match.
BIG VALLEY 2, MILLENNIUM 1, at Tracy -- Kyle Johnson and Quinn Harter scored first-half goals and the Lions (15-2-1, 5-0 Harvest Christian League) played strong defense in the second half to clinch the championship. The Lions open the Division VII playoffs on Nov. 6 against the Mountain Valley League runner-up.