The South High boys soccer team's path to winning a section title got a lot more difficult when the Rebels moved up to Division I this season.
No more over-matched postseason opponents awaited South, only formidable foes.
No. 3 South was up for the challenge on Tuesday night, beating visiting No. 14 Clovis East, 4-1, in the first round of the Central Section D-I playoffs.
The Rebels got a first-half penalty kick goal from senior defender Jose Ordonez to take a 1-0 lead before breaking the game open with a trio of goals late in the game.
South (23-4-3) will face No. 6 Clovis-Buchanan in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Clovis East (8-12-4) had seven corner kicks in the first half but couldn't convert any of them into goals and trailed 1-0 at halftime.
Ordonez's goal came midway through the first half on a low bouncer into the left corner of the net. It came after a Clovis East defender was called for a foul in the box.
"I was just thinking, put it in the back of the net," Ordonez said. "I always practice putting my penalty kicks in the same spot, every time. I never change it up."
South held onto its 1-0 lead with a solid all-around defensive effort on a couple alert plays by Ordonez, who deflected away two would-be Timberwolves goals.
The Rebels finally extended their advantage to 2-0 on a penalty kick by Alexis Rivas with under 12 minutes remaining in the game.
A few minutes later, Chris Valencia and Marc Vasquez added goals for South to put the game out reach.
"It was scrappy. It wasn't the prettiest, but we found a way to get goals in the back of the net and create some opportunities in the box to get some PK's," South coach Diego Cano said.
South had nine shots on goal compared to six for Clovis East.
Most of the Timberwolves’ scoring chances came in the first half.
"We were sloppy in the back," Cano said. "The boys were definitely nervous. We cleaned it up a little bit in the second half. It helped that we were going with the wind the second half, not going against it. That was part of the problem in the first half."
Clovis East's goal came in stoppage time via Alexander Burreto.
"Credit to South, but I felt like that was a soft penalty to set the tone and give them the 1-0 lead," Clovis East coach Erik Farfan said. "After that, we're chasing the game."