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Vikings knock on door, can’t finish at Del Oro

Oakmont finishes short-handed in critical SFL loss
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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Two teams desperate for a win staged a classic physical battle Thursday night on the dimly lit pitch at Del Oro High School. Despite dominating the possession of the ball for most of the match, Oakmont saw its playoff hopes take a major hit in a 2-1 loss. The Vikings came out with a vengeance, attacking the Del Oro goal area with playoff intensity, but due to a combination of Oakmont miscues and the impressive work of Del Oro goalkeeper Alec Lyons, the Golden Eagles withstood the assault. Cole Alexander, Robert Work, Roy Pedro and Mitchell Hunter all had their chances for Oakmont, with Kody Duff constantly feeding balls back into the scoring area, but the Vikings could not cash anything in. It was Del Oro, operating against the run of play, that finally took a zero off the scoreboard when Sam O’Brien set up Kellen Crow for a solid finish and a 1-0 lead. The sudden and somewhat surprising deficit slowed the Oakmont attacking frenzy, at least momentarily. “They put their size to work and bashed balls in on us,” said Del Oro coach Dave Shiro. “My back line and goalkeeper kept us in the game during the first 25 minutes. I think they got a little tired and we finally put the ball on the ground and were allowed to play to feet. I think our first six connected passes (of the game) ended in the first goal, and there is your difference.” With playoff spots on the line as the season winds down, both teams went at the ball hard, with physical play, hard tackles and aggressive battles for the ball. Del Oro got a lift from the outstanding play of its back line – Andrew Messamore, Cole Risse and the sibling central defenders Kyle and Grant Benedict. That quartet battled the Oakmont attackers at every turn, and that was the difference in a game that was played mostly in the Vikings’ offensive half. With Oakmont applying more pressure after intermission in an attempt to equalize, the contest took a definitive turn at the 60-minute mark. Alexander let his frustration get the better of him and fired a throw-in into an Eagle player from close range, earning the Oakmont striker a red card and a trip to the sidelines. “It (the red card) showed a real lack of discipline and understanding of what was at stake for our team, said Oakmont coach Mark Broers. “It is not an indication of how I coach my players or run the program but we all paid the price for that ejection which was a loss.” With his teammates playing a man down the rest of the way, the task became much more difficult. In that situation, and with Broers sending extra men forward in an attempt to get even, the Vikings yielded a second goal that all but sealed their fate. As ever-dangerous Del Oro forward Kolby Mitnick operated near the edge of the Oakmont penalty area, Viking defender Tyler Kuresa went to the ground to sweep the ball away. He was successful in doing so, but there was no defensive help to be found when sophomore Danny Silva jumped on the loose ball and released a lightning quick strike just inside the post and into the back of the net. ”Oakmont needed that game as badly as we did, and we all knew it,” Shiro said. Down 2-0 and down a man with just 10 minutes to play, Oakmont attacked frantically and finally tickled the twine on a left-footed finish by Pedro after Duff served another ball out in front of the Golden Eagle goal. That was as close as Oakmont would get, as Del Oro closed out the win and moved back into third place in the Sierra Foothill League standings as the Vikings fell back into fifth position. “I felt we did enough to win the game even with 10 players,” Broers said. “We had 13 quality chances to score to their three. We didn't finish our shots, they did. We were playing very well and putting them under a lot of pressure but their goalkeeper had a solid game. We also made him look good a few times by shooting right at him. He was the man of the match.” The Golden Eagles (4-3-1 in the SFL) face the two teams with the worst records in the league in Woodcreek (1-6) and Nevada Union (1-5-1) next week, while Oakmont (2-4-1) makes up a game that was postponed by this week’s rain when it visits Roseville (5-2-1) Monday before playing its regularly scheduled Tuesday game at home against Rocklin (4-4). “Our task is difficult,” Broers said. “We need to win four out of five games to even have a chance to finish third. We have the players and the desire but we have been our own worst enemy by squandering chances and allowing other teams to hang around and win the game on odd chances.”