Celestino Garcia grew up with almost all of his teammates. The Le Grand High junior defender has been playing soccer with most of them since they were little kids.
In one way, that's why the Northern California Regional playoffs are a gift for Garcia and the Bulldogs soccer team. Not only is it a chance to make history, but it's an opportunity for this group to play more soccer together.
"It's a hell of a accomplishment," Garcia said. "I never thought we'd come this far. To think we may have a shot at a NorCal championship. This group is very close. We've been playing since were in elementary school. That's why we trust each other so much. We don't hesitate to pass to anyone."
The Bulldogs' dream postseason run will continue after a 4-0 win over the No. 8 seed Millennium in the NorCal Regional Division IV playoffs on Tuesday afternoon at Le Grand High.
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This team has already made history.
The Bulldogs (17-1-2) became just the second team in school history and the first one since 2001 to win a Sac-Joaquin Section championship last week.
Now, in the first year of the NorCal playoffs, they hope to become the first team to win a Northern California championship.
And people are taking notice.
Tuesday's match attracted a large home crowd as many Le Grand High students came on to root their hometown heroes.
"We've never seen a crowd like this one," Garcia said. "It's good to see our fans support us, especially with us trying to do something big like this."
After putting so much energy and emotion into winning the section blue banner, the players had to find a way to refocus and reset their target on a NorCal title.
Le Grand coach Jeff Slaughter said the team had a horrible practice on Monday. Garcia said a lot of the players were ready to call it a season after winning the championship.
Playing in front of a big crowd helps recharge that battery. As the top seed, Le Grand will play as many as three NorCal playoff games at home.
"No doubt," Slaughter said. "I think they were pumped and excited to get to play at home. They know they can make history in front of their family and friends."
The Bulldogs kept the pressure on Millennium (13-6-1), which was coming off its own Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII championship. However, Le Grand struggled to put the ball in the net early against the Falcons.
The Bulldogs finally broke through in the 35th minute when Julian Valencia tapped a pass to senior star Andres Lua, who sidestepped the goalie and deposited the ball in the net for a 1-0 lead.
"We were frustrated at the beginning," Lua said. "We were kind of lazy. After that goal we loosened up."
The Bulldogs relentlessly attacked the Falcons in the second half.
Garcia sent a ball into the box on a free kick from midfield that Lua went up a flicked into the net with a header to extend the Le Grand lead to 2-0 in the 56th minute.
"(Garcia) is always on the other side of those long passes," Lua said. 'I always try to get up before the defense can and this time I was able to get it in the net."
Lua's two goals brought his postseason total to seven in three games. He now has 38 goals on the season, which ties him for ninth in the state.
Rodrigo Lua (Andres' cousin) just missed tacking on another goal in the 62nd minute Millennium goalie Brian Arroyo made a diving stop. Freshman Brian Lua (Andres' brother) misfired just left of the post 2 minutes later.
The Bulldogs put the match out of reach just moments later when Valencia picked up his second assist when he drew the goalie out of the cage to the left side and then passed back to Rodrigo Lua, who fired into the empty net for a 3-0 lead.
Valencia tacked on a late goal on a penalty kick after Rodrigo Lua was grabbed in the box to extend the lead to 4-0.
With the win, Le Grand will host No. 4 Williams on Thursday at 4 p.m. The Yellowjackets (13-3-2) defeated No. 5 Live Oaks 5-0 on Tuesday.
The Bulldogs get the gift of another game and another chance to play together.
"Especially us seniors in our last year," Andres Lua said. "We always wanted to be that undefeated team. We finally did that this year (in the Southern League).
"They can be the first soccer team in Le Grand history to win a Northern California championship," Slaughter added. "They're feeling pretty exciting about that."