Broncos hand Chico first league loss

By Christian Manoukian

Men’s soccer had just enough in the tank to sink the only remaining undefeated team in California Collegiate Athletic Association this season and go joint-top of the CCAA standings in a thrilling 3-2 double-overtime win.

This was always going to be a game of very close margins.

Cal State, Chico came into the game sitting in fourth place in the CCAA and holding an 11-game conference unbeaten streak, but they faced a stern test at home to a Broncos team who began the night one place above them and on a three-game winning streak themselves.

Two quick goals from junior midfielder Jimmie Villalobos and senior forward Luis Najera Jr. put the Broncos ahead 2-0 within the opening 20 minutes, before Chico State responded with two goals of their own from freshman forward Eruvey Arceta, all before the halftime whistle had blown.

Regulation finished with the two teams deadlocked, and it was only a firm header from senior midfielder Matthew Perez in the 102nd minute that delivered the Broncos the win in double-overtime.

“They knew how we play, so we had to be very patient in breaking them down and hammer away, hammer away, and we knew that it would eventually come,” said head coach Adam Reeves.

Cal Poly Pomona looked to be in control of the opening exchanges after Villalobos and Najera Jr. scored within six minutes of each other on the back of wave after wave of Bronco’s pressure.

Senior midfielder Jose Garcia played a wonderful lofted ball just outside the six-yard box into the path of Villalobos, who cushioned the ball onto his chest while simultaneously holding off two defenders before powerfully volleying home for his seventh goal of the season.

For a team that had not conceded a goal yet in CCAA, Chico State looked shell-shocked and struggled to maintain any sort of rhythm or string any passes together.

And just a few minutes later, the Broncos doubled their lead.

This time it was Najera Jr., who ghosted in to the box to flick on senior midfielder Kevin Martinez’s cross into the top left corner, past the outstretched arms of 6 foot, 5 inch Chico State goalkeeper Damion Lewis.

It was Najera Jr.’s fourth goal in three games, and Reeves was delighted with the midfielder’s contribution.

“Luis is finally getting going in this latter part of the year, and I’m extremely pleased with his progress and with the unpredictability we now have when facing teams,” Reeves said. “It’s not just Sergi (Monso) who’s getting our goals for us, now teams have to worry about Luis and Jimmie (Villalobos) and our front four, which has just been phenomenal for us this season.”

However, the Wildcats were not going down without a fight.

They pulled a goal back completely against the run of play on the 20-minute mark, after Broncos senior goalkeeper Jason Trejos tipped a driven cross from the left flank straight into the path of Arceta, who smashed home from a few inches away.

Then just before the half, a penalty was awarded to Chico State for a hand ball by a Bronco defender just inside the box.

Arceta stepped up to the spot to smash the ball home for his second goal of the game and pulled Chico State level.

The second half was an open, end-to-end affair that saw both teams let some key chances go begging.

The Broncos defense had their hands full with Wildcats forward Jeremiah Egujie, who hails from Benin City, Nigeria.

Egujie’s pace wreaked havoc down the right side, and in the 86th minute he slipped in behind the defense and got onto the end of a ball from Arceta, which he poked into the net for what he thought would be the game-winning goal.

He wheeled away in celebration, only for the goal to be called back for offside.

That close call was the catalyst the Broncos needed to push their tempo and effort to the next level as the game entered overtime.

In the first minute of double-overtime, Broncos senior defender Jeremy Totays cut the ball back on the left flank and sent in a whipped cross, which Perez met firmly with his head, nestling the ball into the back of the net and sending the Broncos team and coaching staff streaming onto the field in a frenzy.

“We fought back and the whole team put in a shift to get us this win,” Perez said. “I was coming back from an injury, so to score the winner was an extra special moment for me, especially knowing that we are now top of the table.”

The Wildcats dipped to 7-4-1 overall and 5-1-1 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association.

CPP made it five wins in a row on Sunday beating Stanislaus State 3-2.

Stanislaus State led 2-1 with 20 minutes to go but Perez and Monso were once again the difference as the two seniors scored goals within five minutes of each other to secure the win.

CPP heads to San Francisco State this Friday.

Matthew Perez scored the winning goal in the 102nd minute

Courtesy of CPP Sports Information

Matthew Perez scored the winning goal in the 102nd minute

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