One team at a time. That was what head coach Luis Torres stressed after Patterson defeated Ceres 3-0 in the opening round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.

Tuesday’s game at Patterson Community Stadium was a return to form for the program. After missing out on playoffs last season, the Tigers have returned this season as the number two seed in the bracket.

Awaiting Patterson was former Western Athletic Conference foe Ceres High. The two squads had already seen one another this season, when the Tigers got the best of the Dec. 4 match-up with a 4-1 victory over the Bulldogs.

Patterson proved the first match was no aberration by blanking the visitors the second time around. The team was locked in defensively. This was their first clean sheet since Feb. 6, when they shutout Golden Valley 4-0.

“I told them to keep battling back there, to win every ball, to challenge every ball, and I think they gave it their all. They were playing with a lot of heart,” Torres said. “They all stepped it up back there.”

Although the final score resulted in a rout, the Patterson offense had trouble getting going in the first half.

The offense produced a series of promising opportunities, but that precious first goal evaded the Tigers despite their effort. Torres shared that he felt that Patterson’s disapproval of the officials played a factor in their performance in the first half.

“A lot of frustration. That’s all it was. The officiating wasn’t the best in the first half. I think it was a 50/50 on all the challenges. Unfortunately the ref was calling it more on their side and it got to us quick,” Torres said. “There was a lot of fouls that were being called against us that we didn’t think were fouls and we were losing focus on our game, and we didn’t do anything at all because of our frustration, until the final five minutes when we got our composure, which led us to having a better second half.”

After a halftime intermission that allowed the Tigers to regain their focus, no doubt the second half yielded much better results with three unanswered goals.

Senior Ricardo Jimenez broke the seal when the Tigers were awarded a set piece play just outside the goalie box. The free kick yielded a shot centered in front of the Ceres goal, and Jimenez took full advantage scoring in the 44th minute.

The Patterson offense resumed the pressure in the 52nd minute with a shot on goal that was sent away, but during the rebound a foul occurred, resulting in a Patterson penalty kick.

Jimenez was tasked with taking the shot for the Tigers, and calmly kicked it in for Patterson’s second goal of the evening and his ninth goal of the season.

But they were not content with their lead, and in the 59th minute earned another goal from sophomore Antonio Gallegos.

Next up for Patterson is a match versus Valley High on Thursday at Patterson Community Stadium at 6 p.m.

Valley defeated Oakdale 2-1 in the opening round to advance to the quarterfinals. The team is 18-4-4 overall and 8-2 in the Greater Sacramento League for second place. They were awarded the seventh seed in the bracket. Their four losses this season were to Sheldon, River City, Florin and Natomas. They also handed first- place Natomas their only loss in league play on Jan. 31. 

Every match will be a tough test from here on out. There are no easy routes to a section championship.

Patterson will have the luxury of playing at home in every game as the number two seed, as they take on the quest of a section title. The winner of Patterson versus Valley will face the winner of Pacheco and East Union in the semifinals on Tuesday, Feb. 25. The championship game is scheduled for Feb. 29. The section championship is slated to take place at Liberty Ranch or Whitney High School. The time and place are still to be determined.

PI sports writer

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