Players from Kaiser and Fontana battle for the soccer ball during the final regular season game on May 7.  (Contributed photo by Jerry Soifer)

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the prep soccer season was unfortunately extremely short for Fontana's schools in 2021.

However, the Fontana High School soccer men made the most of their abbreviated year, qualifying for this week's CIF playoffs thanks to a 3-0 victory over Colton in a special "play-in" game on May 6.

The Steelers, who concluded their regular season with a 2-1-1 record following a 3-1 loss to local rival Kaiser on May 7, will travel to Los Osos in the playoff opener on May 13.

"It's been very interesting, but it has definitely been worth the experience," Fohi coach Alfonso Cano said. "With these crazy times that we have going on, it was great to see the kids come out and enjoy their time out here."

Cano applauded the senior players who led the team.

"This is their year and they showed it," he said. "They stepped up and came out hungry every game."

Kaiser was limited to just three games and ended up with a 1-1-1 record.

"It wasn't ideal," said Kaiser coach Erik Espino. "But we did everything we could and I'm glad that these boys stuck together."

Espino said he was pleased that the Cats were able to topple Fohi.

"It was like a playoff game for us," he said. "When you get Fontana and Kaiser together, it's always a fun game to have because it's such a good rivalry."

Jeiro Gomez scored two goals for the Cats and Ruben Amaya provided the third goal.

Fontana Athletic Director Brandon Colbrunn said that at the start of the long-delayed sports season, the Fontana Unified School District determined that its schools would only be playing against teams that were testing their student-athletes for COVID-19 regularly in all sports. This meant that an all-FUSD "league" would be created for this season.

"Once FUSD saw the success of our protocols and the diligence of site personnel, they decided that our student-athletes would be able to participate in CIF playoffs and possible 'play-ins' if we earned the opportunity," Colbrunn said.

That opportunity arose as coronavirus case rates dropped dramatically, even though it took some difficult decision-making among various schools to determine which teams would compete for berths in the soccer playoffs. Fohi (which won the Sunkist League championship last year) prevailed in the qualifier.

In girls' soccer, the Summit and Jurupa Hills ladies are advancing to the playoffs.

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