PERRIS — For nearly 80 minutes, the Perris boys soccer team had a comfortable advantage on visiting Lakeside. Then things got interesting.
Trailing by two goals for most of the second half, Lakeside scored a late goal then had a chance at the equalizer in the final minute. But Perris goalkeeper Jesus Cernas was up to the challenge, helping the Panthers survive for a 2-1 victory over the visiting Lancers on Wednesday night.
The Panthers (12-6-1, 7-0) all but wrapped up their second Sunbelt League soccer title — and first since 2006. Lakeside, the three-time defending league champion, dropped to 10-7-4, 4-2-1.
"Perris needs it," Panthers coach Kevin Cauchon said. "We're big on basketball and other sports like swimming here, but soccer here is almost like a new thing.
"We had 160 kids try out for soccer this year, and we've got a lot of kids coming back next year. I think the (soccer) future is here for Perris."
The Lancers made a game of it late after going more than 38 minutes without a attempting a shot. Senior forward Ivan Hernandez was awarded a penalty kick inside the two-minute mark, and Cernas blocked the shot. Hernandez, however, alertly found the loose ball and booted it into the open net.
A minute later, Lakeside senior midfielder Chris Rodriguez got off a clean header on a corner kick, but Cernas corralled it.
Cernas' most impressive save came on a penalty kick by Lakeside sophomore midfielder Ricky Ruiz in the first half.
"I block a lot of them. I like to intimidate the player," said Cernas, who finished with nine saves. "I looked into his eyes and I pretty much knew where he was already going."
Ruiz gave credit to Cernas.
"My intentions were to hit it low and hard," Ruiz said. "He guessed right, and he dove really good. That was a good save."
Perris took a 1-0 lead in the first half after sophomore forward Daniel Juarez took on a double team from the left wing and successfully chipped a shot over Lakeside goalkeeper Jose Chavez.
One minute into the second half, senior sweeper Omar Enciso headed in a well-placed corner kick from teammate Kevin Jacobo to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
The Lancers had at least three legitimate scoring chances — in addition to the penalty kick — in the first half. Each time they were denied when shots within scoring range went wide of the goal.
Aside from the late fireworks, Lakeside spent most of the last 40 minutes chasing Perris players who had possession of the ball. The Lancers did not produce a shot on goal in the second half until Hernandez tapped in his own miss.
The most interesting moments that ensued involved an impressive ball-handling exhibition by Perris forward Enrique Landeros, who drew cheers from the home crowd after slick dribbling moves in the offensive zone.