A moment of brilliance by forward Luke Sheffey ignited the San Marcos High boys’ soccer team to a 2-0 victory over rival Santa Barbara in the annual Santa Barbara Clasico at Peabody Stadium.
The two teams were locked in a scoreless tie at halftime, but a free kick by Sheffey from 28 yards out in the 46th minute was executed to perfection and sailed into the top left corner of goal, giving the Royals a 1-0 lead and momentum in the crucial Channel League contest.
“I’ve been practicing these free kicks everyday and I decided it was time to do it in game,” Sheffey said. “I went for my Ronaldo run up and I banged it top left.”
The Royals are 5-0 so far this season despite jumping directly into Channel League play and have outscored their opponents 19-3 overall. But Santa Barbara (1-3-4 overall, 0-3-3 Channel League) delivered an inspired defensive performance to keep the match close into the final minutes.
“They were solid. They did a really good job in the first half. Their desire, they wanted the game more than we did in the first half so credit to them,” said San Marcos coach Paul McLean of Santa Barbara’s strong start.
San Marcos enjoyed a significant size advantage over the Santa Barbara back line and had several opportunities on set pieces in the first half to go ahead, but could not take advantage.
Santa Barbara goalkeeper Jeffrey Lechuga made several nice saves, including a punch over the crossbar of a Sheffey header in the 31st minute.
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The Dons absorbed tons of pressure, but made it into halftime with the score still tied. Early in the second half it seemed the goal might not come until Sheffey supplied magic with his free kick, which swung the momentum in the Royals’ favor.
A few minutes later, Tully Knoles nearly put San Marcos ahead 2-0 with a solid strike from 20 yards out, but another diving save by Lechuga kept the score at 1-0.
“Lechuga has been great for us the last two games that he’s played. He has only played two games for us because he came back from football with an injury,” said Santa Barbara coach Ricardo Alcaraz. “He has quick reflexes and for not training for a month and coming back with a performance like that against San Marcos was huge for him.”
San Marcos put the game away in the 75th as a fall ust outside the box from straight on resulted in a free kick. Leonel Olivo made the most of the opportunity and found the back of the net with a low and hard shot that Lechuga could not keep out.
“He’s scored many goals and lot’s of different kinds of goals,” said McLean of Olivo. “He’s a special player for sure.”
San Marcos will finally play a non-league match as they will compete in the prestigious South Torrance tournament next week.