The St. Joseph juggernaut continued.
The Chargers scored early to take command and put the game out of reach with an explosive scoring burst as No. 9 St. Joseph cruised past Little Village 3-1 in a Class 2A St. Laurence Sectional semifinal Wednesday in Burbank.
St. Joseph (20-0-1) advanced to Saturday’s sectional championship against the winner of the second semifinal involving Kennedy and Cristo Rey.
Senior Eduardo Gutierrez, the team’s leading scorer with 20 goals, set the tone when he finished his own rebound in the eighth minute that staked the Chargers to the early lead.
“Our midfielder Jovany [Aceves] took it down the line and beat his defender,” Gutierrez said.
“He crossed it and I was able to get a header on it, but the keeper blocked a part of it, but he kind of fell after he touched it and I was right there for the rebound. It’s great to have the early advantage, but sometimes it’s a bad thing because you get too much confidence,” Gutierrez said.
“Our team knows how to handle 1-0 leads.”
St. Joseph’s blend of size and speed proved too difficult for the Phoenix to disrupt.
“We’re a smaller team and most of the teams we play against are like us, smaller teams with good skill,” junior Little Village forward Daniel Miranda said. “A lot of what they got against us were big set pieces or plays that started over the top and we just couldn’t match up with that.”
Despite the pressure, St. Joseph only held a 1-0 lead at the break.
“This is a team that sets goals,” St. Joseph coach Stan Niemec said. “One of the things they have said is never play down, or never play from from behind and we’ve done that the whole year.”
St. Joseph broke the game open by scoring twice over 35 seconds early in the second half. In the 51st minute, Aceves broke down the right edge and hammered home a re-direct from about 14 yards out for the crucial second goal.
Senior forward Anthony Gulli intercepted a Phoenix pass to create a brilliant breakaway he finished with a rocket ball from just outside the box.
“Once we get one we know how to run with the momentum and quickly get that second one and put them away,” Gulli said.
Miranda averted the shutout when he scored in the 78th minute for the Phoenix (12-3-2), who failed to capture the first sectional game in program history.
“They were bigger and stronger than us, and that’s how the game goes there,” Miranda said.