PACIFIC GROVE — If only they could play once more.
Pacific Grove and Ceiba College Prep entered Thursday evening as the top teams in the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s Santa Lucia division.
Three measly points separated the two in the league standings, and a 2-2 tie in early December served as the prologue.
There were plenty of fireworks on Thursday, but not much changed when it was all said and done.
The two up-and-coming programs played to another bitter 2-2 tie.
“Not the outcome we wanted,” said Ceiba coach Paulina Gonzalez, “but it’s not a loss.”
A loss would have given Pacific Grove (7-1-3, 7-0-2) a sizable lead over Ceiba (7-2-2, 6-1-2) in the top heavy PCAL-Santa Lucia.
The league standings, for now, will stay the same, and the upstart Spartans will have to hope for some help over the next three weeks if they want to win the league.
“It’s barely half the season and anything can happen,” Gonzalez said. ”As long as we control what we can control, we’ll be fine. We’ll let the rest handle itself.”
Thursday was a tale of two halves for the Spartans.
The Breakers stormed ahead for a 2-0 lead over the first 15 minutes on goals from seniors Caelum Kim-Sanders and Jakob Haney, but senior striker Diego Padilla dragged the Spartans back into the contest with a zooming goal from 40-plus yards away in the 24th minute.
He again performed some magic from long distance in the 71st minute to tie it, and the Spartans got a bit of luck on the final play. A red card on Ceiba senior midfielder Jarrod Garcia gave Kim-Sanders a free kick from two yards outside of the penalty box, but his boot clanked off the right goal post and out.
“[The Spartans] have a really solid player in the middle that can really create something out of nothing,” said Pacific Grove coach Nick Lackey, referring to Padilla, who has 25 goals on the season. “He did it twice. He’s a really special player. We tried to shut him down, and we did the best we could.”
Pacific Grove has not won a league title since the 2007-08 season, but the Breakers are in the driver’s seat heading into the final round of PCAL-Santa Lucia action.
Aside from their 2-2 ties against Ceiba, the Breakers have been dominant against the rest of the league. They have a 46-13 scoring differential against the other six teams in the Santa Lucia, the lower division of the PCAL, which features four divisions of varying difficulty.
“We got to come down here and rebuild,” said Lackey, who started six freshman on Thursday. “Now we’re thinking about what our future holds for us. There’s an excitement around the program now, and guys are coming out to play soccer. It’s been really good for us to be down here and be successful.”
Pacific Grove will have another test waiting for it on Jan. 23. The Breakers travel to York, which sat in third just one point behind Ceiba before Thursday’s action.
Ceiba, meanwhile, will have to play near perfect soccer over the next two weeks.
The Spartans travel to Marina on Monday at 2 p.m.
“Tomorrow we’re going to go hard,” Gonzalez said. “We have to be ready for Marina.”
The small Watsonville charter school has surprised many by hanging with the best in the PCAL-Santa Lucia despite being in just its second year of varsity soccer.
A 5-3 hiccup against York two weeks ago made Thursday's game a must-win in order for the Spartans to pull into first place in the league, but Padilla's late-game heroics fell short.