Spar­tans rally late for win

Strath­more downs Monache 2-1 with late goals

Porterville Recorder - - FRONT PAGE - By NAYIRAH DOSU [email protected]­villere­corder.com

In the pre­sea­son Strath­more High School’s En­rique Gomez said he doesn’t score, but in the fi­nal minute of a tied boys soc­cer game at Monache, it was the se­nior’s free kick from 40 yards out that gave the Spar­tans a 2-1 come­back vic­tory.

The 6-foot-2 se­nior de­fender was due for a goal after sev­eral of his free kicks were on tar­get but didn’t get past Monache’s de­fense for one rea­son or an­other. But once his game-win­ner went into the back left cor­ner of the net, Gomez lifted his arms up in cel­e­bra­tion.

Strath­more (2-1-1) was play­ing from be­hind for nearly the en­tire game after Monache sopho­more Favio Mel­gar caught Spar­tans de­fend­ers asleep and scored a close goal in the first 15 sec­onds of the game.

“The first half, I think these kids just fell asleep,” SHS head coach Jimmy Madri­gal said. “They fell asleep. We had a sloppy start, I told them. I told them, they’re go­ing to come hard. They al­ways do. [For] some rea­son we need some­thing to hap­pen, like a goal against us first, for these guys to wake up. Which sucks but I mean hey.”

For the rest of the first half the ball re­mained mostly with the Ma­raud­ers’ of­fense while the Spar­tans’ for­wards were left with few chances against MHS de­fend­ers, sopho­more An­thony Va­len­cia and se­nior Bal­tazar Estrada. Monache (0-5-3) had their own op­por­tu­ni­ties to score again in the first half but had a num­ber of mis­cues that kept them from adding to their lead.

“Our de­fense was out of po­si­tion and Monache was just sneak­ing in be­cause our de­fense was just play­ing a shadow game,” Madri­gal said. “Just fol­low Monache ev­ery­where. And Monache did a good job mov- PHO­TOS BY

ing. And they were mov­ing with­out the ball, and made us move, which put a toll on our de­fense. Our de­fense was go­ing crazy and then there’s a gap be­tween our for­wards and our de­fense. It was pretty bad. It was hor­ri­ble but we ad­justed. Our de­fense ad­justed big time in the sec­ond half.”

It took Strath­more 68 min­utes, but they fi­nally got on the board when se­nior Damian Va­len­cia made it past Monache de­fend­ers for the Spar­tans’ first goal. From then on Strath­more re­mained in con­trol of the game.

The Spar­tans are com­ing off the pro­gram’s best fin­ish after los­ing in penalty kicks to Or­ange Cove in last sea­son’s CIF Cen­tral Sec­tion Divi­sion VI cham­pi­onship game. They start 10 of their 11 re­turn­ers and have a ros­ter topheavy with se­niors, as well as un­der­class­men that are step­ping up.

“It’s help­ing a lot,” Madri­gal said about his se­niors. “And at the same time there’s two play­ers that I moved up from [ju­nior var­sity] barely last week, and those guys are step­ping it up. They’re step­ping it up and they’re in the process of maybe be­ing starters, and one’s a fresh­man. They’ve been help­ing us out but the se­niors are help­ing out be­cause the ex­pe­ri­ence with the young guys com­ing in, it’s show­ing them a lot.”

How­ever the Spar­tans road back to a Val­ley ti­tle once again be­gins bumpy be­cause just like last sea­son, the Spar­tans aren’t able to prac­tice or play at Spar­tan Sta­dium with the foot­ball team us­ing the field as they make their way back to the CIF State fi­nals. And with the weather and lack of refs, games have to ei­ther be resched­uled or can­celled, which is tough on an team in the East Se­quoia League since the league added an­other team and bumped league play up a month ear­lier than last sea­son.

Re­gard­less of their cir­cum­stances this sea­son, Strath­more knows teams are com­ing after them and it won’t be easy to re­peat last sea­son’s suc­cess.

“On paper, hon­estly like I tell the boys, we should be un­beat­able but that doesn’t mean that we are,” Madri­gal said. “... Other teams are hun­gry, they’re al­ready ready for us. They know we have a squad, a team. So we know that the other teams know who Strath­more is and they’re not go­ing to come soft. They’re go­ing to come hard to try and elim­i­nate the hard com­pe­ti­tion which is us.”

Strath­more’s next game is a resched­uled Esl-opener set for 6 p.m. at Cor­co­ran while Monache heads to Le­moore for a tour­na­ment be­gin­ning Fri­day.

RECORDER CHIEKO HARA

Above: Strath­more High School’s En­rique Gomez, right, cel­e­brates after scor­ing a game-win­ning goal Wed­nes­day, Dec. 5 dur­ing the sec­ond half of a game against Monache High School. Gomez scored on a free kick. Be­low: Strath­more High School’s Damian Va­len­cia scores a game-ty­ing goal.

RECORDER PHOTO BY CHIEKO HARA

Strath­more High School’s Damian Va­len­cia, left, cel­e­brates with Ivan Leon after scor­ing a goal.

RECORDER PHOTO BY CHIEKO HARA

Monache High School’s Favio Mel­gar heads a ball Wed­nes­day, Dec. 5 dur­ing the sec­ond half of a game against Strath­more High School. Mel­gar scored the first goal of the game.

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