STERLING – The Dixon Dukes and coach Mahmoud Etemadi will get one more chance to figure out how to stop Carlos Gallardo.
The Sterling senior scored with 30 seconds left in the first half on Thursday at Sterling Chevrolet Field at Roscoe Eades Stadium to give the Golden Warriors the lead in what turned into a 4-0 win.
Gallardo also had two goals in the Warriors' 4-1 win at A.C. Bowers on Sept. 24.
That leaves Dixon having to game plan for him one more time when the two teams meet in the first round of the 2A Rochelle Regional on Oct. 22.
"I am sure they are going to be even more ready next time," Gallardo said. "They know what to expect at this point. They did a good job stopping Tony [Diaz] and me in the first half, and it made us dig deep and want it more."
"Sterling is a very good team," Etemadi said. "They have so many talented players. I thought our team played very well, and if we had capitalized on a few chances that we had, it could have been a different match."
The Dukes had a chance early, as Scott Heath broke open down the right side. He got off a shot, but it was smothered by goalkeeper Jared Fernandez.
Each team had chances for scores in the first half, but good defense and nice plays by Fernandez and his Dixon counterpart Brandon Jagitsch kept the scoreboard empty.
Dixon (0-14-1) looked to be ready to go to half with a minor victory by holding the Warriors scoreless for 40 minutes.
Then Tony Diaz got the ball at midfield and worked it to Gallardo, who did the rest. Gallardo spun around a Dixon defender and fired the shot past Jagitsch.
"I was hungry for that goal," Gallardo said. "Tony got the ball on that run, and I knew if he could get it to me that I was going to score."
"That goal was really big," Sterling coach Brian Cebula said. "The longer the game went on tied, the more confidence Dixon was going to get. Getting ahead put the pressure back on them."
Dixon nearly rallied on the first possession of the second half, as Reid Deets had an opportunity in front of the goal. His shot angled just left of the goal and out of bounds.
"We had our chances," Etemadi said. "Reid had some chances. Scott had some chances. Sonny Barratta had a couple chances. But not every shot is going to go in, and tonight none of them did. We played very well and played very hard against a good team."
Seven minutes into the half, Sterling (13-2-4, 7-0-1 NIB-12 West) put the match away, as Gallardo connected with Diaz on a long pass that Diaz turned into a goal.
Diaz left the game with about 15 minutes left after a collision at midfield. Cebula said that Diaz likely only had a bruised knee.
Sterling added two more goals. Jorge Garcia scored with 21:45 left in the game on a penalty kick.
Jose Uresti notched the last goal with 11:35 off an assist by Santana Trujillo.
Sterling finished with 12 shots. Dixon had eight shots.
Star of the match: Carlos Gallardo, Sterling, 1 goal, 1 assists
Key performers: Scott Heath, Dixon, 4 shots; Tony Diaz, Stelring, 1 goal
Up next: Oregon at Dixon, 10 a.m. Saturday; Sterling at LaSalle-Peru, 6 p.m. Tuesday