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Verso, Knights come up clutch in first round

Soccer: Senior forward scores two goals for St. Francis, including game-winner with two minutes left.

February 19, 2011|By Grant Gordon, grant.gordon@latimes.com
  • St. Francis' Eric Bocanegra, left, celebrates with Eric Verso.
St. Francis' Eric Bocanegra, left, celebrates… (Raul Roa, Glendale…)

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Though it seems as though it's been a while, coming up clutch in the playoffs is nothing new for St. Francis High senior forward Eric Verso.

Having missed his junior season and much of his current campaign, Verso still maintains that he's not quite 100%, but on Friday afternoon, the Golden Knights' play certainly was and their standout striker's dramatics were at their best and then some.

Verso tallied two scores, including the dramatic game-winner with just two minutes left to lift St. Francis past Thousand Oaks, 2-1, at St. Francis' Friedman Field in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs.

"A lot of guys get a little nervous in the big games," said Verso, who put the Golden Knights up in the 57th minute and scored the game-winner in the 78th, "but those are the moments I play for, this is why I play soccer."

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St. Francis will now play Ventura, a 3-2 winner over Fountain Valley, on Wednesday at a site to be determined by a coin flip in the second round.

"It's always gonna be this kind of game," said St. Francis Coach Glen Appels, whose team improved to 14-9 with its win over the Lancers (9-6-4), the Marmonte League's No. 2 seed. "It's Division I soccer."

Verso, who has now scored eight goals in his last three matches, led St. Francis to the Division I semifinals and the CIF Southern California Division II Regional Championships title during an All-Area Player of the Year sophomore season. After skipping his junior year to play with the U.S. Soccer Academy and dealing with injury problems for a good part of his senior year, he seems to have gained his clutch form of two seasons past.

"Eric is a top-class striker," Appels said. "He's a guy who comes through in the big moments."

So too did many of the Golden Knights, second-place finishers in the Mission League. Not the least of which was junior midfielder Eric Bocanegra, who drew three defenders to the right as he brought the ball inside the penalty box before dishing left to Verso, who had enough space to get off a scoring shot that sent the St. Francis sideline into a delirium.

"Eric had one minute of composure amid the chaos while everybody was running around," Appels said. "That one minute of composure was the difference in the game."

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