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Dean, McCreary lead Knights

Soccer: Big saves by keeper, own goal and McCreary score lead St. Francis into quarterfinals.

February 24, 2011|By Grant Gordon, grant.gordon@latimes.com

VENTURA — Deadlocked in a scoreless skirmish, St. Francis High's soccer team was continually saved by Paul Dean, while fourth-seeded Ventura simply couldn't save itself.

Bolstered by a dazzling display in net by Dean, benefited by an own goal that turned the game and further buoyed by the healthy collarbone and accurate right foot of Billy McCreary, the Golden Knights prevailed on Wednesday afternoon, defeating the host Cougars, 2-0, in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division I boys' soccer playoffs.

"It was a mistake, but it was a mistake that I think we caused," said St. Francis Coach Glen Appels of the own goal that Ventura put on the board in the 68th minute that broke a scoreless tie and set up a McCreary score just six minutes later that effectively sealed the victory. "That second one was just as huge. It was a great finish by Billy."

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St. Francis (15-9) will now host a quarterfinal showdown on Friday at 3 p.m. against visiting San Clemente, a winner in penalty kicks over Palos Verdes on Wednesday.

In a sequence started by junior midfielder Austin Frank's header into the attacking third, McCreary put his own header into the Ventura box where senior striker Eric Verso, who had plagued the Cougars (19-6-2) all contest long, was pressuring. As the Ventura defender and keeper converged, the defender headed the ball up and inadvertently into the net.

"Eric had put so much pressure on them, they were worried about him," Appels said.

Added McCreary: "Eric was screaming at me to flick the ball. I flicked it, but it went higher than I wanted, but it ended up working out."

Not long after in the 74th minute, McCreary, playing in his very first game back since being sidelined with a broken collarbone, put the game to rest. He took a corner kick from junior midfielder Derek Bell, controlled the ball with his chest and blasted a right-footed shot high into the net.

"I just came out to play as hard as I could," McCreary said. "It felt absolutely great."

Not long after the own goal, Dean made a huge diving stop and would make another on a header that he lost amid a scrum, but quickly gathered. It culminated a day in which he made nine saves, including seven in the pivotal second half.

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