SANTA ANA — One point is all that separated Estancia High from first-place Godinez in the Orange Coast League. The two boys' soccer teams met on Tuesday and the one-point deficit in the standings turned into four.
The host Grizzlies distanced themselves from Estancia on Tuesday and they moved closer to repeating as league champions after a resounding 4-0 win at Centennial Regional Park.
The Eagles' league title hopes are dashed. They had to become the first team this season to defeat Godinez to have a chance at the league crown, their first in four seasons.
With one league match left against Saddleback on the road Thursday, Godinez (12-0-6, 6-0-3 in league) is in the driver seat. Four players produced goals, keeping the Grizzles' unbeaten season alive.
In one match, Estancia (12-5-4, 5-2-2) allowed as many goals as it gave up in its four previous combined losses.
"If it was a fight, we would've been in the hospital," Estancia Coach Robert Castellano said. "They were hungrier. They played harder, [with] more energy, more intensity. In every aspect of the game, they were better than us."
Right away, Godinez, ranked No. 4 in the CIF Southern Section Division 5 poll, proved to be the better side. A couple minutes in, the Grizzles went ahead on Eric Torres' goal.
The rest of the way, the No. 9 Eagles played on their heels. In the process, they lost their captain, Marco Pineda, 10 minutes in to a knee injury. Without Pineda, a midfielder, the Eagles were fortunate to go into the break only down one.
At halftime, Castellano talked to the Eagles, reminding them of what was at stake. He even had the program's two former successful coaches, Gannon Burks and Steve Crenshaw, address the team.
None of the talks worked. The Eagles' attempt at staying in the hunt for a league championship ended in the second half. They can finish either second or third, depending how the Eagles close out league at home against Calvary Chapel on Thursday, and how Laguna Beach fares against Costa Mesa.
Three minutes in, David Vazquez beat goalkeeper Enrique Valle. All the scoring chances seemed to belong to the Grizzlies. They looked dangerous and Valle kept Estancia in it, making four impressive saves after the early second-half goal.
Valle pushed a ball over the crossbar, another to the side, and he knocked one down, and gloved one.
"He made probably 30 saves and we needed him to make 100," Castellano said sarcastically.
Carlos Herrera did his best to slow down the Grizzlies' attack in the second half. He got tangled up with Vazquez in the 52nd minute. Vazquez earned a yellow card after he retaliated.
In the first half, Herrera, a defender, also got in Torres' path. Herrera and the rest of the Eagles failed to stop another Torres in the 59th minute.
On a long throw-in by Jorge Lopez, Enrique Torres, in traffic, struck the ball in for a goal. Things began to get out of hand, and Castellano pulled midfielder Abarham Cortez and Herrera.
The Grizzlies added a late goal, coming on a corner kick. Moises Santibanez headed it in and Godinez doubled its offensive production from the last time it faced Estancia.
The Grizzlies looked faster and stronger in the second meeting. Having Sergio Martinez helped the Grizzles create an ample amount of scoring chances. Martinez missed the 2-2 tie at Jim Scott Stadium on Jan. 22 with a hamstring injury.
"It's good to keep the momentum," said Coach Ruben Fernandez, whose Grizzlies are trying to wrap up their third league title during their six seasons on the varsity level, their second going unbeaten. "I told the boys, 'It's a playoff situation.'"
The real postseason for Estancia starts next week.
"We'll probably have to play away [in the opening round]," said Castellano, whose Eagles learn on Monday, when the playoff pairings are released, who it plays and where.
"Every time we lose during the season, we kind of lick our wounds and we come back stronger. It kind of opens our eyes. I think we'll be OK."