It will be the defending champion against the upstart newcomer when Sacred Heart Prep takes on East Palo Alto Academy on Thursday in the opening round of the Central Coast Section Division III soccer playoffs.
Game time is 3 p.m. (changed from 4 p.m.) at Willow Park, located off Willow Road exit (south on Gilbert) in Menlo Park. The winner will advance to Saturday's championship match against the winner between King's Academy and Latino Prep College at Valley Christian-Dublin at 2 p.m.
Sacred Heart Prep (13-2, 15-4), which played its final Private Schools Athletic League match on Tuesday (an expected win over Fremont Christian), lost its chance at the No. 1 seed for the four-team tournament when it was upset by St. Lawrence last week. The Gators rebounded with a 4-2 win over visiting Redwood Christian last Friday as junior Ben Taylor scored two goals.
East Palo Alto Academy (11-0, 11-2-2) is the surprise team of the tournament, having never won a league title or played in the postseason. That changed Saturday night when EPA Academy won its first Christian Private Schools Athletic League title with a penalty-kick win over Latino Prep at the Santa Clara Youth Soccer Complex.
A goal by Oasis Lopez made it 1-1 at the half and Junior Revuelta's goal on a free kick from 22 yards tied the match at 2 in the second half. After 10 minutes of scoreless overtime, the match went to penalty kicks.
EPA Academy made all five penalty kicks (Ivan Fonseca, Marcos Lopez, Revuelta, Roberto Rubio and Oasis Lopez) and Fonseca blocked Latino Prep's fourth attempt to decide the outcome.
Latino Prep had scored 46 goals in its six league matches, but Fonseca (a sophomore) came up big in his biggest game.
EPA Academy qualified for CCS on Friday night, beating Alma Heights on penalty kicks (3-2) after the teams had played to a 3-3 tie and through two scoreless overtimes. Fonseca blocked three penalty kicks and booted one in to lead the way. In the two playoff wins, Fonseca faced nine penalty kicks and blocked four
EPA Academy won 11 matches last season, setting the school record. One more victory will break that mark, sending the team into its first section finale.