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Chaos ensues after Denair loses tightly contested semifinal match
Denair boys soccer fight
A Millennium player strikes Denair player Diego Padilla who is sitting on the bench after the game (CHRISTOPHER CORREA/The Journal).

Despite it being a chilly night Tuesday, multiple soccer players from Denair High School immediately dropped to the wet grass of Jack Lytton Stadium with tears in their eyes. Their dream of winning a third consecutive CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI title came crashing down after falling to the Millennium High Falcons (Tracy) by a 1-0 score.

Tears were quickly wiped away, though, and sad emotions were channeled into anger after a Millennium player tore down a fan-made sign hung on the home side bleachers before striking a Denair player from behind while he was sitting on the bench during the Falcons’ celebration.

The player struck was Denair captain Diego Padilla, who played just the first six minutes of the game before being taken out due to reaggravating a quad injury that had sidelined him for nearly three weeks.

“Diego wasn’t even in the game. There’s no way he could’ve started something. He was quiet, sad on the bench the entire time,” said brother and assistant coach Jose Antonio Padilla.

The Turlock Journal captured video of some of theincident, with recording beginning just after the Millennium player madecontact with Padilla.Although the Millennium player had taken off his jersey before heading to the Coyotes’ sideline and ripping down the sign, Denair athletic director Anthony Armas and several parents were quick to point the finger at senior Nicolas Valencia. 

The sign ripped down included the phrase “Falcons K,” though the meaning is unclear. A post by the account @falconsfalconss on X, the social platform formerly known as Twitter, claimed the phrase was “inappropriate” and was “attacking Millennium.”

The Denair bench cleared and several players got up off the turf to chase down the Millennium player running away with the sign. Pushing and curses were exchanged before the scuffle was broken up by fellow players, coaches, administration and parents. The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office was called. They dispatched officers to be parked outside Jack Lytton Stadium to prevent any fights from breaking out in the parking lot. They arrived approximately 10 minutes after the scuffle on the field was broken up, and no additional incidents occurred.

“It’s just really unfortunate,” said Armas. “I really hurt for our seniors because it was their last game ever. Even though we lost, they didn’t get to take it in and end it as it should have been. They accepted the loss and were heartbroken. It just sucks that we had to deal with a bunch of that nonsense just because another team was being disrespectful.”

Armas added that he and the rest of the school administration and staff are looking forward to cooperating with the Sac-Joaquin Section offices for what they hope will be a thorough investigation of the incident.

“When something like this happens, we get a report from the officials that are at the game,” said section assistant commissioner Will DeBoard. “Now that could be tricky because this happened after the game, which means that officials already left or aren’t paying attention. In general cases like this, we'll talk to school administrators from both schools who were out there and see what happened. We'll try to watch as much video as we can.”

“There was no need for that,” said Coyotes head coach Antonio Padilla, visibly frustrated. “Our guys, they know they lost. We accept that. It’s not that serious.”

As for the match, it was as tight as it could be with things knotted at zero at halftime. The scoreless tie was broken by Millennium freshman striker Matteo Mendoza in the 45th minute. By the final whistle, there were only 14 combined shots-on-goal. The ball was knocked back-and-forth between the two teams near midfield for the majority of the match.

The Coyotes entered the defensive battle as the No. 1 seed in the D-6 bracket after achieving a 19-6-2 overall record and a 10-2-2 record in the Southern Athletic League. Millennium was the No. 5 seed after achieving 6-7-2 overall in the 2023-2024 season and had a 6-2-2 record in the strong Central California Athletic Alliance. The Falcons are scheduled to face No. 2 seed Esparto on Saturday, pending any section investigations.

“It’s tough to tell what’s going to happen,” DeBoard said. “It could be some sort of ejection/suspension issue, or it could be nothing at all. We’ll be talking with both schools to sort it all out.”