A high school boys soccer team celebrating with pennant flag championship banner

Oilers Boys Soccer Wins League Championship in Dramatic Fashion

A high school boys soccer team celebrating with pennant flag championship banner

Richmond High celebrates its latest TCAL-Rock champions banner.

Story and photos by Joe Porrello

Things looked bleak for the Oilers late in the game, but Richmond High would not be denied winning a TCAL-Rock title in front of their home fans on Thursday night.

Oilers senior goalkeeper and team captain Diego Albarran says the win goes beyond the field for him and his team.

“It’s more than soccer; it’s playing for Richmond — where we live, where we grew up,” he said.

Facing a two-goal deficit with 10 minutes remaining, Richmond High’s sticktoitiveness stymied Albany High and carried the Oilers to a 3-2 victory decided by a penalty kick shootout.

Having not earned a league finals banner in two seasons — a long hiatus for a team that has won the majority of TCAL-Rock championships since its inception 10 years ago — Richmond High got themselves off the schneid.


After shutting out the Cougars twice in January by scores of 4-0 and 2-0, the Oilers got all they could handle from Albany High — who came in having won two consecutive shutouts.

With both teams feeling each other out in the opening moments of the match, neither managed a shot on goal before the Cougars put one into the net 12 minutes in.


Physical play would continue throughout, as Albany High amassed countless free kicks. 

The Cougars notched their second goal midway through the first half, helping them take a 2-0 lead into the break. They have been road warriors all season, only losing one game away from home.

Albany High would carry their energy from the first quarter into the second. Cougars players on the field and bench were very vocal, constantly giving each other verbal motivation.


While the home crowd became further invested in each ensuing play — oohing and ahhing progressively — so too did the Oilers, who ratcheted up their intensity accordingly. 

As two players jockeyed roughly with one another for position before a second half free kick, a game judge told the pair: “The ball’s not even in play yet.”

Richmond High had offensive possession for much of the backend but was unable to capitalize until late. 

Junior Rafael Olivarez rifled one into the net from the top of the goal box with nine minutes left on a crossing pass by senior Ivan Campos that skimmed halfway across the pitch through multiple defenders.


Still down one goal in extra time after the clock hit zero, Richmond High got more necessary inspiration from another of their seniors. Winger Esteban Barrios reared back from about 50 feet away and lasered one between the pipes — tying the score at two apiece and sending the Richmond High players, coaches, and fans into a frenzy of euphoria.

Campos highlighted his team’s connection as pivotal to evening the score with the odds against them.

“Just being together… we were all united trying to get those last two goals,” he said.

When regulation time concluded, the two sides began a 20-minute golden goal-style overtime — in which the first team to score, wins.


Oilers head coach of 24 years Rene Siles said he is happy with the way his team turned around their play.

“They are resilient. I just wish they didn’t dig themselves a hole in the first place,” he said.

Near the start of overtime, Albarran pressured an attacker when the ball went over his head and nearly into the net before an Oilers defender cleared it away from the goalmouth — saving the game. 

Richmond High would get their own chance to end things, but a rifled Oilers shot was corralled by the Cougars netminder. Neither team managed any more threatening offensive opportunities in the second half of overtime and with the score still knotted up after over 100 minutes of play, the game would have to be decided in a best-of-three penalty kick shootout. 

Tied after three rounds, sophomore center forward Erick Ramirez finally ended things with a goal in sudden death as temperatures dropped to 45 degrees.

Ramirez and other Oilers players ripped off their jerseys and threw them in the air as the final whistle blew; they were quickly warmed by fans who rushed the field and embraced them, jumping up and down together in a group cheering for such an improbable comeback.


Albarran had tears in his eyes at midfield while soaking up his team’s effort postgame. 

“It’s just a brotherhood. That’s the only way I can put it. It’s not just a regular team,” he said. “We say, ‘Family on three,’ and we show it every day when we’re here, Monday through Saturday.”

The Oilers goalkeeper said he was confident in his ability for penalty kicks following three years learning as a backup before taking over as the starter.

“Those three years I was learning for this very moment,” he said.

Albarran amassed 11 shutouts in 16 games coming in, helping the Oilers to have nearly three times as many combined goals scored than surrendered.

Richmond High came into the game as regular season TCAL-Rock champs by way of the standings, holding a record of 8-1-1 in league play. A loss to St. Mary’s in January was the Oilers first league loss since the COVID-shortened 2020 season — their only overall losing campaign in a decade. 

>>>Read: Richmond High Athletes Get Back in the Game as High School Sports Return

The Cougars have been on a similar but slightly less successful path. 

Albany High’s lone losing league record in the last six years also came in 2020, and the team has scored almost double the goals they have allowed this season.

The similarities seem to end when the teams go head-to-head. 

Going back a decade, Richmond High is 15-1-1 against the Cougars with the single loss coming seven years ago. 


The Oilers are now on a five-game win streak as they enter the North Coast Sectionals — where they are ranked No. 3 of 26 teams — and want to further avenge a lasting defeat from the finals a season ago.

Siles said the victory mentally frees his team from last year’s sour playoff ending and he is pleased to hang another league banner, but is more focused on the positive experience and added resolve the comeback win will give his team on their NCS run.

A similar performance won’t cut it in the next round, according to Albarran, though he is still assured of his teammates.

“The boys have gone into playoff mode, but I know it’s not going to be easy,” he said.

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    Posted at 20:31h, 16 February


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