RIVERBANK — Leading by two goals, most soccer coaches would have spent halftime praising their team's effort.
"I was right on top of them, reminding them that 2-0 is the most dangerous halftime lead," said Riverbank coach Martin Gonzales. "The team ahead gets overconfident and the team behind is too close."
The Bruins made sure it got no closer, scoring a goal early in the second half on the way to a 3-0 win over Calaveras to open the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 playoffs.
"I told my team that all it would take is for Calaveras to score one goal and they're back in it," said Gonzales.
Adrian Pantoja erased the possibility of a Calaveras rally when he scored on a header 15 minutes into the second half. Christian Albor and Ricky Vigil gave Riverbank an early lead, each scoring once and assisting on the other's goal in the first half.
"We're a quick team and we attack," said Albor, whose footwork made the first goal of the match possible. "After Ricky got the ball to me, I cut inside and drew out the goalie. Once he was out from the goal, I just shot around him."
The Bruins (17-7-4) host nemesis Patterson in Thursday's semifinal. The Tigers made the last two section finals, but lost both matches. Patterson knocked the Bruins out of the playoffs each of those years, including 2-1 in overtime in a 2008 semifinal.
"Both were on the fast (artificial turf) at Patterson and we spent a half getting used to the speed of the ball," said Gonzales, noting Trans-Valley League teams have grass fields. "We've got them coming here this time. That will put the game on even terms."
That wasn't the case in the opener, as the Bruins exploited their speed and ballhandling to control the tempo.
The large field — 120 yards by 95 yards, said Gonzales, compared with the football-field dimensions of 100 by 80 yards many teams use — had Calaveras (11-8-2) struggling to keep pace.
The pressure wore down Calaveras during the first half, until a missed assignment allowed Albor to break loose.
"Our forwards (Albor and Vigil) put a lot of pressure on a defense because if they get a step on you, they're tough to catch," said Gonzales, whose Bruins have won the last two Trans-Valley League titles.
The Bruins often set up Albor and Vigil with long crossing passes, hoping to catch defenders a step out of position.
"We don't have that sort of speed, so it's a definite adjustment when you run into it," said Calaveras coach Danny Patalano. "We made two mistakes on defense, and both led to goals. Riverbank makes you pay for your mistakes."