Ryan Arkelian was playing basketball in his PE class at Buchanan High last week when he caught an elbow to his face, blackening a left eye that still screams pain.
Then for the real rough stuff Wednesday in a Central Section Division I boys soccer showdown with Clovis North.
“Very intense,” said Arkelian, whose first-half goal from point-blank range held up in the top-seeded Bears’ 1-0 semifinal win over the No. 4 Broncos. “That’s the way it always is when we play Clovis North — it’s a physical game.”
It was so intense in a match that drew seven yellow cards, Arkelian actually pulled himself out twice because of heat exhaustion.
And to think it was only 64 degrees.
But the atmosphere on Buchanan’s pristine field was indeed boiling before a standing-room-only crowd of about 800. And that could be attributed in part to the fact the Broncos scored a 2-1 Tri-River Athletic Conference upset two weeks ago at home against a Bears team top-ranked in the state and No. 3 nationally at the time by topdrawersoccer.com.
“This game has become a big rivalry,” Buchanan coach John Spurgeon said. “And there was some motivation — I don’t want to call it revenge — after they beat us last time.”
The 19-2-1 Bears — now ranked fifth in the state and 10th nationally — will remain home to play Liberty-Bakersfield (20-5-3) for the D-I title at 1 p.m. Saturday.
That will follow the 11 a.m. D-I girls final, matching top-seeded Buchanan (17-3-5) and No. 2 Clovis North (16-4-6).
Buchanan’s boys won last year’s title and three of the past four, including 2-0 over Liberty-Bakersfield in 2012. The Patriots tied for second in the Southwest Yosemite League this season behind Bakersfield.
The team-leading 15th goal for three-year varsity veteran Arkelian against Clovis North (16-7-1) came in the 30th minute on a set play launched by Colson Verhalen’s throw-in.
The Bears’ J.T. Arruda flicked it back and into the box near goal. It then deflected off the back of a Broncos defender and fell to the ground, where Arkelian hooked it past freshman goalie Ryan Moffitt.
“I was just thinking get to the ball because the defenders were rushing to it,” Arkelian said.
Buchanan goalie Ryan Bray delivered his fifth shutout in six games, with major assistance from the back line of Verhalen, Ollie Dolberg, Brandon Goldman and Jacob Rudolph.
“They did a great job,” said Spurgeon, in his eighth season at Buchanan and also a D-I section champion at Hoover in 1994. “We did a lot of running — that was the key — and we were great in the air.”
The shot of the game actually didn’t find the net — a 40-yard blast by Bears defender Jonah Biechler that struck the crossbar in the second half.