PALMDALE — The Knight boys soccer team remained patient with its game plan on Friday.
Despite being scoreless and trailing by one goal midway through the second half against Eastside, the Hawks were confident not only that they would score, but steal momentum in the match.
Knight did exactly that, tying the match in the 64th minute on a penalty kick and scoring the game winner nine minutes later in a 2-1 Hawks’ Golden League victory at Knight High School.
It had all the intensity and hard-fought play of a match for sole possession of first place in the Golden League. Knight (5-0-2, 3-0) is now alone in first place with the win over Eastside (5-1-0, 3-1).
“We knew that as soon as the first goal we had to turn it over,” Knight senior Martin Jaramillo said. “We knew this was our game since the start. In the first half we had many opportunities. The second half we came in knowing we had to finish it and knowing that we were going to get those opportunities. That woke us up to finish those opportunities we had.
“It gave us momentum.”
Jaramillo, a third-year varsity player, scored the second goal for the Hawks in the 73rd minute off of a free kick from 10 yards out by junior Armando Banuelos.
“It was a good, hard game,” Jaramillo said. “It gives us an advantage to get first place and go undefeated as of right now. Hopefully we keep it that way. We’re going to keep going with confidence and keeping it strong. Let’s win the rest of our games and have a good season.”
Knight was shut out in the first half by Eastside junior goalie Daniel Pantaleon.
The Lions broke the scoreless tie with a goal by sophomore Roberto Vargas in the 35th minute past diving Knight junior goalie Francisco Bravo. Vargas scored on a cross pass from junior Chris Romero.
The 1-0 lead stood at halftime for Eastside.
“It’s so hard when you’re having good control of the ball and you’re making good plays and somehow the ball doesn’t get in,” Knight coach Baltazar Mendez said. “Then you get behind in the score and now you’re struggling with confidence. We work on stuff like that, situations where you’re losing. We have to keep playing our game and tonight we did. We always stuck with the ball and we were able to put the ball away.
“It’s a young team and I hope we can keep doing that. Every game we play is a tough game. We get teams and a lot of times we get behind and we have to be able to play all the way through, especially with those moments.”
Although Knight trailed 1-0 to start the second half, the Hawks played like a team that had the momentum.
The offensive pressure paid off for Knight, when a Knight player was taken down in the box, giving the Hawks a penalty kick in the 64th minute.
Knight senior Evan Rodriguez, a first-year varsity player, converted the PK to tie the score at 1-1.
“We just knew in our heads one was going to go in,” Rodriguez said. “The first goal is the hardest goal to get in. We knew once we got it in, it was over. We just had to stick to our game plan.
“I felt like we played a great game. We played hard. We knew coming into this it was a great team. Two first-place teams going at it. We just had that mindset to get ready.”
The tie made a tight, competitive game even more hotly contested, as three minutes later a player from each team was issued a yellow card when tempers flared. The official quickly intervened, jumping between the two players.
“They got that penalty call. It was an iffy call, but you don’t argue it. It’s a ref’s call,” Eastside coach Jorge Vega said. “It went under Daniel. Daniel could have had that save. He went to the right side, but it went underneath him.
“After the scuffle, the yellow cards, we were getting a lot of calls going against us. That pretty much cost us the game.”
Knight missed an opportunity on a free kick from 10 yards out four minutes after tying the match, but capitalized on another free kick just a few minutes later to score the game winner.
“We played well tonight,” Mendez said. “I feel good about how we played. I think we had a little bit more control of the game overall. We kept possession a little longer. But we still made some defensive mistakes. At the end of the day, it put us behind. We started losing when we should be winning.”
Knight will play Lancaster on Monday in a rescheduled game and host Antelope Valley on Wednesday and Highland on Friday.
“Knowing that this is the other first-place team, it gives us a great mindset going into our next game,” Rodriguez said. “We already know that we have to play them again and it’s going to be a tough game. They already know what’s coming.”
Eastside had two set plays in stoppage time, with back-to-back free kicks from 20 and 25 yards out by Romero.
Both kicks deflected off the Knight wall, the second bounced back to give Romero another shot, but the shot went high over the goal.
Eastside shared the league title with Quartz Hill last season, with Knight finishing fourth.
“We tell them we won 15 Golden League matches without a loss. We asked them how it felt after losing one,” Vega said. “It hurts. As coaches, it hurt us. A lot of them weren’t with us last year, so we dropped it to them. This is getting real. We can’t expect to continue losing. If you don’t want to be part of this program, you just quit now. This program isn’t about losing, so they have to step it up.
“They have to fix their errors. There’s no room for errors in games like this,” Vega said. “They played better than us today. Games like this there’s no room for error. Unfortunately we made a couple that cost us.”
Eastside will host Littlerock on Wednesday and Lancaster on Friday.