Downey stops another league champ in soccer

TRACY -- The Downey High soccer team is making a habit of defeating league champions. And it's doing it at the right time, too.

The Knights dominated the pitch in their Sac-Joaquin Section Division I quarterfinal against West High on Tuesday, keeping the ball on West's side for nearly the entire game.

Downey pushed two goals across on nearly identical plays in a three-minute span in the second half, sending the MMC runners-up into tonight's semifinal against Franklin of Stockton at 7 p.m. Franklin beat Buhach Colony 4-2 in their quarterfinal.

It was the third consecutive victory over a league champion for Downey (12-5-4). The Knights beat Modesto 4-0 in their MMC season final, followed by a 2-1 penalty-kick shootout victory over Central California Conference champ Atwater in the first round of the playoffs. West was the Tri-Cities Athletic League titlist.

"The kids are doing good things right now," Downey coach Adrian Romero said. "They're really stepped it up.

"We thought Atwater was going to be tough, but there came a point where we realized we could play with them. It was the same thing for this game. At halftime, we knew we were going to be OK."

The Knights controlled the tempo throughout, working the ball closer and closer to West goalkeeper Jesus Parocua. At the halfway point of the second half, they finally struck.

Sam Bell dribbled down the left side, drawing the defense, then sending a cross past Parocua and across the goal mouth. Nick Cash was there to put it away past a sliding defender.

"I thought the defender had it," Cash said. "But when it got to me, it was an easy kick."

Two minutes later, the Knights struck again. This time, it was Cash who had the ball on the left side. He put a nearly identical cross past Parocua, where Scott Cunningham put it away.

West, meanwhile, tried to rally by dribbling past the Downey defense. But when they did, Downey goalkeeper Diego Vera (six saves) was there.

"There's no way you can beat a good goalkeeper 1-on-1," West coach Joe Perry said. "You have to draw him to one side and cross, just like they did.

"We had too much of that Maradona mentality, and it cost us."

The red-hot Knights will face their fourth consecutive league champ when they play Franklin in tonight's semifinal. Romero said he wasn't worried about the back-to-back games.

"We have the momentum going, we want to keep it up," he said. "If we keep playing like this, we'll be OK."