Richmond Oilers defeat Berkeley High 3-2 in meeting of top soccer teams

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Nine days after losing to De La Salle, the Richmond High School boys’ soccer team had another chance to take on a top soccer team in the area. This time, against Berkeley High School, the Oilers pulled out a 3-2 win.

Monday night’s meeting with the Yellow Jackets was the Oilers’ final home game of the 2012-13 regular season, in which five of this year’s seniors were honored before the game began, and it came against a rival opponent that had only lost once all year.

Make that twice.

The emotion of the night made the win for the Oilers that much sweeter. “I would rather get a win over Berkeley than De La Salle because it is that much more special,” Richmond co-head coach Jasko Begovic said after the match.

Erik Montes, Richmond’s leading scorer and one of the seniors honored Monday, was smiling and hugging teammates, after shaking hands with the Berkeley players.

“This was a tough game, and they have been our rival for many years and winning it at home, we are very grateful,” said Montes, who scored two goals on the night. “It is our senior year, it is our last year we are going to be here for Richmond High, we got to keep it up and we got leave everything on the field.”

The scoring started off early for the Oilers as a dozen minutes in, Montes converted a penalty kick after fellow senior Eduardo Bramvila drew a contested penalty near the edge of the box. Bramvila jumped into the air to head a ball, but landed hard on the ground after being upended by a Berkeley defender whose body was slightly under him. Berkeley’s coach didn’t like the call, but Montes scored for a 1-0 Oilers lead.

Following the goal the Yellow Jackets ratcheted up their play. Berkeley senior Jonathan Gonzalez sliced through the Oilers’ midfield and was only stopped by an aggressive sliding tackle by Richmond senior Brian Ramos. Later in the first half, Berkeley senior Nigus Solomon controlled the ball just yards in front of the Oilers’ goal, but Richmond defenders deflected his shot outside the penalty box area. Solomon put his jersey over his head, then into his mouth, in disgust.

But just a few minutes later, right before the end of the half, Solomon converted after a series of one-touch passes. The senior slammed the ball past Richmond’s goalkeeper Humberto Melendez, and the game was tied 1-1 going into halftime.

Seven minutes after the break, Montes scored his second goal, this time off an indirect free kick just inside the Yellow Jackets’ penalty box. After the Oilers took the 2-1 lead, they continued to control the flow of the game. Eight minutes after Montes scored, he added an assist after he delivered a perfect lead pass to a cutting Jorge Alvarez about 25 yards away from the Yellow Jackets’ goal. Alvarez controlled the ball, stepped around Berkeley’s onrushing goalie, and finished it into the open net.

The 3-1 score for the Oilers seemed safe, but the rest of the game included some frantic moments for the home team.

After Berkeley’s Jasper Hebert, a junior midfielder, had an opportunity that was just tipped out of play by Melendez, the Yellow Jackets converted on the ensuing corner kick on a goal by senior defender Matthew Marletta, cutting the Oilers’ lead to 3-2 with just over 10 minutes remaining.

Berkeley continued to put on the pressure, and had more opportunities to score; a free kick from 30 yards out sailed over the Oilers’ goal, and a corner kick skidded by multiple Berkeley players just in front of the net.

When the final whistle sounded, the Richmond players and coaches ran onto the field, to celebrate the win with their 11 teammates on the field.

The win pushed the Oilers’ record to 13-3-5 on the season, and with the league and North Coast Section playoffs coming up the team seems to be playing some of its best soccer of the season at the right time.

“It is really good to get a win,” Ramos said. “It shows that even though we have a young team, we can compete with the best and we proved it tonight.”

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