Southwest's Gabriel Alamillo (left, shown in a game earlier this season) assisted on a goal in the Raiders' win over Simi Valley Royal on Saturday.
DOWNEY As soon as four busloads of Southwest students arrived some 12 minutes into their school’s Southern California Regional boys soccer final, they started chanting, “Let’s go, Raiders!”
And the Raiders truly got going for their first regional crown.
After facing an early one-goal deficit, fourth-seeded San Diego Southwest responded to top Simi Valley Royal 3-1 behind senior Rafael Espinoza with a goal and an assist in Division II play at Warren High on Saturday.
“It’s exciting for my team and my school,” said Espinoza, who put the Raiders ahead 2-1 nine minutes into the second half by converting a penalty kick for his team-high 28th goal of the season. “I’m glad to have everyone here enjoying this moment. To know they came from San Diego to support us means a lot.”
Espinoza finished with five goals in three regional playoff contests.
Senior Brandon Mejia added the final goal for Southwest (22-2-4) off an assist from Gabriel Alamillo with four minutes to go and then waved his jersey to the fans in a moment of mutual appreciation.
“The last goal, they deserve it,” Mejia said. “They had us on our game. We all believed in this team, and we did it.”
No. 2 Royal (25-5) opened the scoring in the 10th minute before the Raiders pulled even on a goal by Jerry Mendoza 14 minutes before halftime.
The Raiders followed winning their first San Diego Section title since 2003 with this championship in their first regional final.
“Hard work pays off. It gives you success, and these boys proved it,” Southwest coach Giovanni Medina said. “We want everyone in south San Diego to know if they work hard, they’ll be successful in their lives, too.”
The Raiders forced 11 Royal saves, while Southwest goalkeeper Juan Barrera made six.
As the game wound down, Raiders fans evoked a familiar San Diego cheer, “Beat LA! Beat LA!”