The South Fork boys’ soccer team ended its season at Kezar Stadium last Wednesday, taking a 2-1 loss against Leadership High School of San Francisco in the North Coast Section Championship semi-finals. South Fork has never made it to the third round of post-season play and Wednesday’s match was close enough to show that the team has the potential to one day win the title given the level of teamwork and talent on the 2012 squad.
The size of Kezar’s field was considerably larger than that of Geyserville’s where the Cubs won their quarterfinal match last Saturday. At first the Cubs looked a little bewildered and struggled to find each other in the wide-open spaces. Leadership knew the venue well and played a direct style with a lot of long deep passes forcing the Cubs to chase the ball.
Just ten minutes into the match Leadership got on the board when South Fork was caught short-handed on the back line and a through ball was delivered to a Griffon forward on the left flank who chipped a well-placed shot over Cub keeper Damian Alatorre’s head into the back corner of the net.
The Cubs responded with attempts to work the ball into the corner and senior forward David Beebe used his speed to get behind Leadership’s defense and deliver crosses. A South Fork goal was called back when junior midfielder Mike Harrison was judged to have fouled the Leadership keeper after a loose ball collision that resulted in the keeper fumbling the ball and Harrison putting the ball into the net.
Twenty minutes into the half Leadership scored again when a loose ball couldn’t be cleared from the left side of South Fork’s goal and the ball was volleyed over Alatorre’s head as he was coming out to get it.
This time the Cubs responded with more direct play toward the goal, twice finding Beebe with through balls on breakaways. However, the left footed top scorer was thwarted both times by the Leadership goalie who made outstanding sliding saves.
Shortly before the end of the half Cub defender junior Kyle Wescott and a Leadership midfielder were both cautioned when Wescott, frustrated by the Leadership player’s persistent pulling on his jersey, objected by shaking his opponent off and sending him toward the ground. The Leadership player stood up and retaliated with a shove and both teams immediately began to swarm around the incident before the whistle finally blew. The lateness of the call was characteristic of the game’s lackadaisical officiating to that point.
In the second half, South Fork came out with intensity and scrappiness and just a few minutes into the half a pass from sophomore midfielder Eli Kahan busted Beebe free behind the Leadership defense and this time he was not to be denied, sending the ball past the keeper and into the net before he could slide into Beebe’s feet.
With the score now 2-1 and the Cubs re-energized by the finish South Fork continued to press. Yet the effort appeared panicky at times and the ball pin-balled around the huge field costing the Cubs precious energy as the clock wound down. Leadership indulged in legal but unsportsmanlike time-wasting tactics such as the keeper holding the ball at his feet until challenged by a South Fork player, multiple substitutions, and slow and deliberate inbounding of the ball on throw-ins. After one especially, slow retrieval of the ball for a throw-in a Leadership player was cautioned, and as he walked past the large and vocal crowd of South Fork supporters on his way to his bench he smiled up into the stands, shaking his fists.
Several Cubs had less than ideal chances to score as the half went on, but the Leadership goalie scooped up everything that came his way and the Griffon defense was perfect on every corner kick earned by South Fork down the stretch. When the final whistle blew South Fork’s magic post-season ended, but the team went out fighting hard and with huge characteristic heart. Head coach Travis Genzoli had brought a lineup of two freshmen, two sophomores, four juniors and just three seniors further than any South Fork team had gone before in a historic San Francisco stadium after a first round win over Emery in another Bay Area venue and a second round upset of top-seeded Geyserville.
Leadership went on to lose 2-0 to Anderson Valley in the championship game on Saturday in Boonville.
PHOTOS BY HEATHER SALOMON
1. The announcer introduced the players for the South Fork Cubs before the game.
2. The huddle.