“In the second half we had a bit of a letdown, but we take this as a lesson and we look to continue to improve. All year long our defense has been rock solid and (Thursday) was no different.” ECR, which is unbeaten the past seven years at home, or Marine League champion San Pedro (17-6, 12-0) is expected to receive the top seed in the City playoffs when the pairings are determined Saturday at Van Nuys High. The Conquistadores are looking to add to their City record with a seventh consecutive title. Chatsworth, which played ECR to a 1-1 draw Jan. 23, finished in a second-place tie with Granada Hills (10-7-5, 6-3-1). Both schools figure to be seeded among the top six teams Saturday. ECR, which has won 26 consecutive playoff games, would be in line to play four more home games en route to the March 3 final at East L.A. College, since the higher seed in the 32-team draw is always designated as the host team. “Whether we’re No. 1 or No. 2, either way you’re going to have to come to play us,” Choi said. “Eventually you’ll have to come to ECR.” email@example.com (818) 713-3607 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Toga and sophomore Sasha Scott gave their teammates the best possible present on ECR’s senior day, teaming up to complete a passing sequence that helped the Conquistadores (15-2-4, 9-0-1) extend their league unbeaten streak to 30 in a row. Scott received a ball in Chatsworth’s defensive third and switched the point of attack to the left side to Toga, who struck a 16-yard, left-footed volley off the crossbar and down across the goal line. “I was just hoping it would go in,” Toga said. “I expected a physical game, but I was mentally ready. I brought what I had.” Chatsworth (6-3-1 in league) increased its pressure in the second half, three times firing shots at ECR senior goalkeeper Ashley Menin from 20 yards, but two sailed over the goal and one hit off the crossbar. Menin denied a few other opportunities in the final 10 minutes en route to her 11th shutout. “In the first half, I thought we played really well,” said Choi, whose team increased its unbeaten streak against City opponents to 45 straight entering the postseason. What began as a celebration for the eight seniors on El Camino Real of Woodland Hills’ girls’ soccer team Thursday turned into a gala affair for junior Rebecca Toga by halftime. Toga’s goal in the 39th minute was all the offense the host Conquistadores would need in a 1-0 West Valley League victory over rival Chatsworth, which saw its winless streak against ECR reach 14 in a row since 2002. “She’s only scored two goals, but she’s played well all year long,” ECR coach Eric Choi said of Toga, who also produced the Conquistadores’ lone goal in a Dec. 16 victory over Harvard-Westlake of Studio City in the Mater Dei of Santa Ana tournament. “In the past, we might have relied on one person to score a lot of goals, but now we have six or seven weapons that can hurt you.”
TRAGEDY: Five men survived the chemical blaze in a tunnel but were dead when rescuers reached them. By P. Solomon Banda THE ASSOCIATED PRESS GEORGETOWN, Colo. – When fire broke out deep underground at a hydroelectric plant in the Rockies, officials at the surface dropped a radio down to five trapped men in a tunnel and were relieved to learn they were OK. The blaze erupted when a machine used by the workers to coat the tunnel with a mixture of paint and epoxy caught fire, Xcel Energy spokeswoman Ethnie Groves said. Nine employees of RPI Coating of Santa Fe Springs, had been sealing the inside of the pipe to prevent corrosion, a routine procedure that followed an annual inspection. Two others were working outside the pipe; one of them was injured when he ran back into the tunnel to help when the fire broke out about 1,400 feet from the tunnel’s bottom. It was reported around 2 p.m., authorities said. The tunnel delivers water from a reservoir to turbines that generate electricity at the plant 30 miles west of Denver. Four RPI workers escaped from the tunnel and were treated at a hospital and released. Five others scrambled about 1,000 feet above the fire but were trapped by smoke and the steep, nearly impossible-to-climb slope at a spot where the tunnel bends from a 15-degree angle to a 55-degree one, Nay said. Officials dropped a radio to the workers, who reported around 2:40 p.m. that they were uninjured. Rescuers also dropped breathing masks and air tanks into the tunnel but were unsure if the workers were able to find them or use them, Nay said. Powerful fans were used to drive air into the tunnel and clear it of smoke so that the trapped crew members could breathe. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board will investigate, among other things, the conditions inside the confined space and what type of protection and safety training the maintenance crew had, OSHA spokesman Rich Kulczewski said. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! But by the time emergency crews reached them six hours later, they were dead. On Wednesday, a day after the tragedy more than 1,500 feet underground at Xcel Corp.’s Cabin Creek power plant, investigators struggled to figure out what went wrong. Crews began to remove the workers’ bodies. The workers were identified as Donald Dejaynes, 43; Dupree Holt, 37; James St. Peters, 52; Gary Foster, 48; Anthony Aguirre, 18, all of California. The men’s bodies didn’t have any burn marks, indicating that they probably died of the smoke and fumes from the chemical fire, Clear Creek undersheriff Stu Nay said. Authorities defended their rescue efforts, saying smoke, the complexities of the 4,000-foot tunnel’s design and uncertainties about the dangers prevented them from going in after the men for more than 3 hours after the blaze broke out.