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Varsity Soccer Bruins Go 1-1 In Tough Division IV Bracket
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Trailing Bret Harte 3-0 with 30 minutes to play, Martin Gonzales needed at least three miracles from his Riverbank High varsity soccer team to give the Bruins new life in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs.

He got four.

Riverbank exploded for three late scores, adding one more in the waning moments of overtime period No. 2 for a 4-3 come-from-behind thriller over the Mother Lode League champion Bullfrogs on Nov. 9.

The Bruins fell 2-0 to Dixon on Thursday in the SJS semi-finals, but it did little to taint a tremendous season for a young program on the brink of becoming a dynasty.

"You can't buy this type of experience, you can only live it," Gonzales said. "There are some real level-headed boys on this team, and these playoff games only make us stronger for next year. We should be even stronger."

The Bret Harte win came against nearly insurmountable odds. The Bullfrogs scored just eight seconds into the contest, adding a tally at the end of the first half and start of the second.

Badly in need of scores, Gonzales moved senior defensive stalwart and team captain Carlos Harvey to the center of Riverbank's offensive attack and saw an immediate change of pace.

Harvey outworked Bullfrog defenders and drew enough attention for teammates to find lanes to the Bret Harte goal. His play freed up Diego Duran for two second half scores and Jonathan Solano for one more to force a 3-3 tie at the end of regulation.

Two overtime periods later, Harvey drew a double team before passing to Duran for a one-on-one with a Bret Harte defender at the edge of the goal box.

Duran made a move to the outside, but quickly switched directions and attacked, leaving the defender well out of contention before a fierce kick could land the game-winning score.

The last of Duran's three-goal hat trick sent Riverbank players and fans into pandemonium.

"It was crazy, and just unreal." Gonzalez said. "Our fans and theirs were already going back and forth, and when we scored that last goal I had to do everything I could to keep everybody off the field so we wouldn't get a red card."

Two days later, Riverbank gave Golden Empire League champs, Dixon, all they could handle on Thursday in the D-IV semis. The game was tied 0-0 until a Rams forward snuck a score past Bruin keeper Rafael Ramirez (seven saves) with just five minutes to play.

Gonzales moved Harvey forward to spark an equalizer, but Dixon took advantage of his absence near the Bruin goal with a score in the final minute of play.

The Rams (15-3-1 overall) went on to beat GEL No. 3 seed Capital Christian 4-3 for a SJS title.

It's a mark Riverbank fell just short of, but with nine returning starters and the influx of the Trans-Valley League champion junior varsity team, the Bruins have plenty of success on the horizon.

The team saw incredible improvements in 2010 after a 1-5-1 start to the season and streak of four straight league losses in late September to early October.

The Bruins came on strong in the last half of league play to take the TVL's No. 3 seed, but also became the only league program to reach the SJS semifinals.

"I am so proud of this group, and I told them that repeatedly after the Dixon loss," Gonzales said. "I told them to remember what they had been through to play much older than they were."

Bruin seniors Harvey, Hugo Yepez, Oscar Navarro and Manuel Jimenez will have the option to join the TVL's top 2011 graduates in a battle vs. Western Athletic Conference seniors in a February all-star contest.