There was less than three minutes left in regulation, Turlock High led Johansen High 1-0 and the Knights were getting desperate. The majority of Tuesday’s Division II SJS playoff match was spent in a virtual stalemate with the ball frequenting both ends of the field, but it could all be over if Turlock’s defense could hold strong.
As it turned out, the Bulldogs’ greatest defense was their offense, specifically Jose Aguilera. After giving his team the lead early in the first half, Aguilera put the nail in the coffin for Johansen with his second goal of the night, a 25 yard line drive that whizzed over the opposing goalie’s head. Turlock had advanced to the second round, a revelation that spurred Aguilera to remove his shirt in celebration and his teammates to engulf him in gratitude.
“It was a great feeling. I knew we had a little bit of time left so I took the shot and hoped that it went in,” Aguilera said. “I knew I was getting the yellow card but I think it was worth it.”
“He’s done an amazing job all year,” Turlock’s head coach Doug Sperry said of Aguilera. “He’s the guy everything runs through. He doesn’t get a lot of goals or the credit but everything is set up from him and his hard work, he’s very important to us.”
Aguilera’s first goal came in the 21st minute off a penalty kick. The time between the two goals was spent with Johansen trying to pressure Turlock with its short passing game while the Bulldog defense regulated the Knights’ offense to taking long shots in the hopes of scoring. The nearly all defensive match wasn’t exactly what Sperry had in mind but the outcome was.
“It wasn’t pretty or our best game, but we did what we needed to do to get the win and advance,” Sperry said. “If we’re going to continue to advance and win games it comes down to hard work and heart and that’s what we try to stress to these guys.”
Turlock must now prepare for a quick turnaround. The Bulldogs host Rio Linda High at 3p.m. on Thursday, making it imperative that they rest up well on their one day off, a task made even more difficult given that it’s Halloween.
“It’s going to be tough, but we’re all going to have to be disciplined,” Aguilera said. “We have a big opportunity in front of us that we can’t waste.”