SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- The Santa Maria boys soccer team is playing for a CIF championship tonight.
The Saints will host Central (Fresno) in Ralph Baldiviez Stadium for the Division I title.
Start time is set for 6 p.m.
"It's very emotional," said senior captain Gilberto Gomez. "It's nice to be here, especially at home."
The game marks the first CIF championship game for the program since 2005, when the Saints beat then-Los Padres League rival Santa Ynez 4-0 to capture the CIF-Southern Section Division IV crown.
"There's a lot of pride," said head coach Eduardo Cuna. "I know the city has been waiting for this for 15 years and it would mean a lot and it would open up doors for the boys and that's the goal."
Playing as the division's second seed, Santa Maria earned a trip to the finals with a 3-1 victory on Wednesday over third seeded Clovis North.
Now, they'll face fourth seeded Central, which beat Arroyo Grande 1-0 on Wednesday.
Awaiting the Saints inside Ralph Baldiviez Stadium will be a very large, loud and passionate crowd that is sure to give the team an extra boost and a real home field advantage.
"It's going to be crazy," said Gomez. "It's going to be wild. We love the support that we have."
There was a big energetic crowd at home during the team's semifinal win two days ago and an ever bigger supporting section is expected for the Friday night contest.
"Having the crowd on your side makes a big difference, so we really need to take advantage of that home field advantage and that will make the other team pay," said Cuna.
Cuna added the among those in the crowd will be a handful of spectators that are familiar with playing for a CIF championship.
"A lot of the CIF champions from 2005 will be around," said Cuna. "I know quite a few of them and they've been rooting for us throughout the playoffs and they want to see us win."
A victory for Santa Maria would earn the school its first CIF championship since the baseball team captured the CIF-SS Division 6 title three years ago.
After moving to CIF-CS last year, a victory would be the first ever Central Section championship in school history.