PASO ROBLES — The Templeton Eagles boys soccer team has claimed the league title in the inaugural season of the Ocean League and did so emphatically by steamrolling Orcutt Academy last Friday night, 5-0, and followed it up with a 3-0 win in the opening round of the playoffs.
To be clear the Eagles were already league champs regardless of how the game went as they were 9-2 in league coming into the game, a game up on Atascadero which finished in second place. THS had two head-to-head wins against the Hounds season. This is the first time the Eagles have won a league title since before many of the players on the team were born with the last one coming 17 years ago in 2002.
“At the beginning of the season, that would have been my dream, my goal going in,” senior captain Nathan Lebens said. “It’s just such an incredible thing to be able to accomplish that but hopefully we’re not close to done yet.”
The Eagles finished the regular season 16-8 overall and separated themselves from the rest of the pack once league began. Templeton finished league as both the highest scoring team and the least scored upon team scoring 38 goals over 12 games and only allowing 11 for a goal differential of plus 27. The Greyhounds finished with the second best goal differential at only plus seven.
“I have 14 seniors,” Templeton head soccer coach Dale Wiggins said. “And if there was ever a group — I mean obviously as a coach you always want to win
With the victory, the Eagles entered the postseason playing at their highest level riding a six-game winning streak where they have scored 23 goals and only allowed four and earned an eight seed in Division 3 of the Central Section and the right to host their opening-round match against Fresno-Washington Union.
The game was played Wednesday evening at War Memorial Stadium in Paso Robles following the conclusion of the girls game. Washington Union controlled the ball and the pace in the first half in wet and windy conditions.
“Before the game, our coach was telling us that they were going to come out strong and we had to absorb that pressure,” Lebens said following the game. “And we knew that we were playing on turf so the ball would move faster and we knew this was a fast-playing team. So we knew if we absorbed that pressure for the first 30 or 40 minutes that we would be able to settle into our rhythm and start playing our game.”
While the Eagles were looking for their rhythm, senior keeper Branton Fouquet went to work. Fouquet recorded multiple saves both in the air and on the ground to keep Templeton in the game while they searched for their offense.
“Branton Fouquet had one of the greatest games I’ve seen,” Wiggins said.
Fouquet held the Panthers scoreless recording his 10th shutout on the season.
“Honestly I was just trying to stay calm and do the best that I can,” Fouquet said. “I think that the defense did a great job of keeping those balls out of the air. It was just really helpful having such a strong defense that locks it down.”
After 38 minutes of being sucked up on defense, the Eagles finally broke out on a counter attack.
“It was a team effort,” Cole Hamor noted. “But Nate [Lebens] shut it down in the center and won it back and got it to Sam [Alsup] who took it up the line and gave a perfect ball down the line and the keeper came out and I saw the opening and took it, it was sweet.”
Hamor, who was causing problems in the Panthers’ defense for most of the second half, gathered the perfect pass from Alsup and looked up to see the Washington Union keeper charging him from 25 yards out and skipped it right past him and into the goal for the huge momentum-swinging goal, sending Templeton to the break up 1-0.
The second half the Panthers came out pressing hard in the early parts of the second half but couldn’t break through the Eagles’ defense as desperation and frustration began to set it. The Panthers recorded a yellow card around 15 minutes into the second half and just a few minutes later recorded a red card as their keeper attacked
Down a man and two goals the Panthers ceased going for the ball and started getting chippy but the Eagles wouldn’t bite.
“It [keeping their composure] is something that we have worked on and worked on and worked on,” Wiggins said. “And one of the things that I have tried to get through to them as a coach is the mental aspect of the game, the momentum of the game, and when your opponent is starting to, you can see them getting frustrated. That is when you let them do their thing and stay out of it and that is kind of what happened with these guys.”
Claudius Johnson put the icing on the cake with a beautiful goal from around 35 yards out that left the keeper frozen in his spot as he watched it dance through the misty night air and into the back of the goal.
The Eagles won the game, 3-0, and will travel to Tulare Union to face the Division 3 third seed on Friday in the second round of the CIF Central Section playoffs.