Road warrior Bulldogs upset Grant 1-0, advance to Division II soccer semis

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Folsom High’s soccer team is proving that anything can happen once a team makes the postseason.

The Bulldogs grabbed the final qualifying playoff spot in the Delta River League and entered the postseason with a 6-9-2 record.

The 11th-seeded Bulldogs have since caught lightning in a bottle, upsetting Vintage 1-0 on Tuesday and following it up with another tough 1-0 win on the road Thursday at Grant. With the two wins, Folsom advances to Wednesday’s Division II semifinal, where the team heads 90 miles south to play second-seeded Turlock.

Pehzman Kavianikosarkhizi scored the goal against Vintage. It was only his second goal of the season, but it came at the biggest moment.

“I got the ball and just dribbled to the goal and shot it under the keeper’s arm to the right and it went in,” Kavianikosarkhizi said. “It was awesome; the best thing that’s happened to me. It was the best feeling. I can’t describe it.”

Despite losing to the Pacers 2-0 in preseason, the Bulldogs were a confident group before Thursday’s game. Kavianikosarkhizi said the team could win if they played their best.

Against the Pacers, Greg Patenaude stepped to the forefront, scoring five minutes into the game.

“Matt Morton crossed the ball to me and I was able to get my left foot on it and it beat the keeper in the air to the near post,” Patenaude said. “We got an early goal against Vintage and it held up, and when I got this one I thought we were solid because our defense is strong. It was pretty nerve racking, though.”

The common denominator in both of Folsom’s playoff wins has been the play of keeper Craig Stafford. He was stellar in the win against Vintage, and he made all the plays he needed to against the Pacers and there were several plays to be made. While he made a couple saves in the first half, the Pacers turned it up a notch in the second half and kept Stafford plenty busy with the game on the line in the dwindling minutes.

“We all played a great game,” Stafford said. “We had to have it and everyone battled. The defense played great. I was nervous, but I was trying to keep my cool.”

How has Folsom turned a losing regular season into playoff gold? For starters, the team has improved greatly from the start of the season. Secondly, their better played has boosted their confidence. Now that they’ve made it into the postseason, the team’s got its eye on the prize -- a section title -- which is a huge motivator and now the Bulldogs are only one win away from the championship game.

“We’ve done it with pure will,” Patenaude said. “We’ve played our butts off and we just have this will to win and to fight to the end.”

Folsom coach Ray Robitaille couldn’t be prouder of his team.

“Tonight they did it with tenacity,” Robitaille said. “They had a lack of quit. Both teams suffered against less than perfect circumstances, but they ignored it, stayed focused and played through it. They had a goal in mind and they stuck to it. They played so well as a team and did everything asked of them and the outcome is all theirs.”