They never really looked like their usual dominant self.
The Buchanan High Bears played without energy, particularly on the back end of their defense.
Coaches yelled, seemingly more than usual. Players uncharacteristically screamed back.
Even the Buchanan crowd, rowdy during the team’s Central Section championship victory, looked like a shell of itself during the opening round of the CIF state playoffs.
But the most abnormal thing that happened to the Bears on Tuesday afternoon: the final outcome.
Southern California Regional sixth-seeded Los Alamitos eliminated No. 3 Buchanan 5-4 on penalty kicks after tying 2-2 through a 15-minute overtime period.
The Bears end their season at 20-2-7.
“I thought we were lackadaisical at first, kind of went through the motions,” Buchanan senior JT Arruda said. “Our effort picked up at the end. But we just didn’t have enough today.
“We had higher expectations.”
Los Alamitos converted all of its penalty kicks.
Buchanan converted its first and its last three, but was denied on the second.
The kick was supposed to be taken by senior forward Josaiah Trejo. But he had to be replaced at the last moment after cramping up, which also caused him to be subbed out during regulation.
Los Alamitos goalie Alec Lazar deflected away the shot.
“It’s just bittersweet, penalty kicks,” Buchanan coach John Spurgeon said. “I just don’t like it.
“I told them yesterday, you just don’t want to go into sudden death or penalty kicks. It’s the luck of the draw.”
Buchanan entered the regional on an 11-game unbeaten streak and ranked No. 1 in the state, according to topdrawersoccer.com.
But something had changed since Buchanan’s 2-0 victory against Centennial in the section D-I final on Feb. 27.
The Bears looked out of rhythm early, playing out of character against a 10th-ranked Los Alamitos team coming off six days’ rest.
Both coaches cited the long layoff as likely disrupting Buchanan.
“Anything over seven days, that’s not good for a team,” said Los Alamitos coach Donovan Martinez, a Fresno High graduate who played for Fresno State in the mid-1990s.
Spurgeon expressed more frustration about the layoff than his team’s performance.
“What needs to happen is the CIF has to get everybody on the same page,” Spurgeon said. “Regardless how many teams are in your division, you’ve got to start so everybody ends on time.
“Have all the sections end at the same time so nobody is sitting around waiting.”
On the final penalty kick, Los Alamitos’ Anthony Mejia II booted in the winner with a shot to the lower right corner.
“That was very dramatic,” Martinez said. “Penalty kicks, you never know how that’s going to go.
“Buchanan’s a good team. I thought they outplayed us for the most part. But we got to them in a few stretches.”
Jacob Rudolph and Oliver Dolberg had Buchanan’s goals in regulation. Kevin Herring scored twice for Los Alamitos.
Division II – No. 4 South rolled to a 4-1 victory over No. 5 Jordan-Long Beach. The Rebels (26-2-4) will host No. 8 La Costa Canyon after the Mavericks (16-6-4) ousted No. 1 Sunny Hills-Fullerton on penalty kicks after tying 1-1 through overtime.
Division III – Top-seeded Cathedral-Los Angeles rolled past No. 8 Ridgeview 4-1, ending the first trip to the regionals for the Wolf Pack (21-5-1).
Division IV – No. 4 McLane held a 2-1 halftime lead on goals by Emerson Hernandez and Sergio Gonzalez, but couldn’t make it stick during a 3-2 loss to No. 5 Garden Grove during the Highlanders’ first trip to the regionals.
McLane, which captured the first Central Section boys soccer title in the program’s 46-year history on Feb. 26, finishes 23-6-1.
Division V – Danny Trejo scored his 48th goal and contributed his 17th assist of the season to lead No. 5 Mendota over No. 4 McFarland 2-1.
Trejo broke a scoreless tie with roughly 5 minutes left, but McFarland was granted and converted a penalty kick during injury time to force overtime.
In OT, Enrique Orellana scored off Trejo’s assist to lift the Aztecs (19-6-2).
Mendota will play at top-seeded Desert Mirage-Thermal at 4 p.m. Thursday in the semifinals. Desert Mirage, ranked 10th in the state by Maxpreps, improved to 24-0 with a 3-0 victory over No. 8 Christian-El Cajon.