Score first and contain, contain, contain.
That's been the successful formula of the Buhach Colony High boys soccer team all season. It worked again Friday as the Thunder defeated host Modesto 2-1 in their Sac-Joaquin Section Division I first-round playoff game.
Buhach Colony scored both its goals in the first half, within two minutes of each other.
Austin Schwalbach accepted a switch pass from Adrian Avila in the 23rd minute and fired the ball from the right side past Modesto goalkeeper Rene Mejia, from about 30 feet away.
After controlling the ball most of the half, and having one shot hit the right crossbar, the Thunder (16-2-4) -- the No. 2 team from the Central California Conference -- didn't have to wait long for another opportunity to score.
Alex Zamora sent another Avila pass past Mejia, this one from about 20 feet in front of the net. Zamora said he knew the ball would be there, but scoring so quickly was still a bit of a surprise.
"It was pretty intense, actually," Zamora said. "The ball was there and I just kicked it. This is the first time in the playoffs for me, so it's pretty neat."
Modesto (13-9-2) had hoped to benefit from its home-field advantage. The Panthers were more familiar with softball infield dirt at both ends of the field, and there were about 300 fans lining one side of the field.
Zamora said kicking in the dirt was hard, but that's where all the goals came from.
Modesto had numerous chances to score in the second half. The Modesto Metro Conference champions scored their lone goal in the 66th minute when T.J. Vander Veen moved in on the ball, which was bouncing around in front of the net.
Vander Veen, who kept playing after suffering a right elbow injury, didn't have time to get set. He stepped up and booted the ball past Buhach Colony goalkeeper Martin Aguilar, who had defenders helping protect the net on both sides.
The Panthers were trying to make something happen near the Thunder goal when time ran out.
Modesto senior Brian Casey said things just didn't fall into place for his team.
"They came out real strong and I think we got a little flustered," Casey said. "It took us a little while to get back in our game. We're good enough to be a section contending team and we showed that today. We came up a little short."
Buhach Colony will play at San Joaquin Athletic Association champ Franklin of Stockton, which defeated Stagg 2-0, on Tuesday at 3 p.m.
Bee staff writer Kelly Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.