CARLSBAD As a freshman last year, St. Augustine High’s Luis Peraza eagerly watched the Saints boys soccer team win a Southern California Regional championship. Then he began this season on the JV in anticipation of being called up to the varsity.
His chance came Thursday, and Peraza celebrated in style. He scored on a header with just seconds left in the first half to put St. Augustine ahead to stay on the way to a 3-1 victory over Downey Warren in the Showcase West Division of the 18th annual Southern California Classic at La Costa Canyon.
The triumph gave the unbeaten Saints (8-0-1) a sweep of two pool-play games on the day after they opened the tourney by topping San Jose Bellarmine Prep 1-0 on an own goal early in the second half.
“It’s great playing on a (regional) championship team with guys like these,” said Peraza, who had a week of practice since being called up. “We want to keep on trucking away, and get these W’s. I put in the hard work this year and figured something would happen. Then I got rewarded.”
Peraza, who came off the bench in each half, converted on a close-range header off a throw-in by Ike Arinze to answer a tying goal by Downey Warren (1-4-5) four minutes earlier.
“I had checked the scoreboard for the time,” Peraza said. “I was looking to make a big play.”
Senior Joe Saad added a penalty kick with 12 minutes left for the 3-1 margin that constituted a blowout by Saints’ standards this season. All but two of their wins have been by one goal.
“We’re winning close games because we were there last year (in tight situations),” said senior Johnny Costa, who joined Saad in playing every minute of both games. “The veterans know how to keep the team going, whereas other teams haven’t been in those situations as often.”
As the sixth seed last year, St. Augustine won the San Diego Section Division III title with the help of a late tying goal that led to a victory over Cathedral Catholic on penalty kicks.
“It’s just determination,” said senior Dominic Chavez, who scored the first goal against Downey Warren on a free kick. “Even if we may not get a lot of scoring chances, we’re clinical and we put it away.”
Saints goalkeeper Cody Russell secured the win with 10 saves after opening the day with his fifth shutout of the season.
“We’re playing big schools and finding ways to win,” Saad said. “Every game is a test. Also, we’re trying to keep humble while we have a bigger target on our backs (because of last year’s titles).”
St. Augustine, which is ranked fourth in the section, will play in the quarterfinals at 11 a.m. today at La Costa Canyon. The tourney, hosted by Oceanside, continues through Saturday.