Kings beat short-handed Sidewinders
After Angel Figueroa scored the game's final goal, he processed in his mind what it meant and ran toward his bench with his right index finger held high.
Figueroa wasn't telling the Kofa faithful that he and his team were No. 1. Instead, the message was the complete opposite.
“It feels great to beat No. 1,” he said.
Figueroa's penalty kick past a diving Luis Vasquez with less than five minutes left was the insurance goal the No. 7 Kings needed as they doubled up rival San Luis 4-2 Tuesday in a Gila Valley Region contest at Irv Pallack Field.
The Sidewinders (7-1 overall, 4-1 GVR), who entered the game as the top team in the AIA 5A Power Rankings, had only 14 active players. Six players missed the contest as they were ruled academically ineligible.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game not having a full squad,” San Luis coach Tim Conroy said. “But I'm proud of the kids and the way they played. It just wasn't our night.”
Even if San Luis had its full complement of players, it might not have mattered. The Kings (6-0, 5-0) were motivated before they ever took the field.
“I had 35 soccer players in my room in the morning and they were all talking about the San Luis game,” Kofa coach Jamie Nicewander said. “I've never had a team so pumped up going into a game. My other teams have looked forward to it and they have an inner calmness about it. But these guys were just juiced. You could tell when they came out.”
From the opening whistle, Kofa was in attack mode like a pack of starving hyenas.
Kofa had seven corner kicks and was called offsides at least a handful of times. But the Kings' persistence paid off as one of the corner kicks led to Julio Mesa's rocket from 20 yards away that ricochet off a San Luis defender for the game's first goal in the 21st minute.
Donal Landrum made it 2-0 with about 10 minutes left in the first half when he scored off Colby Carr's header that hit the crossbar.
“Like our coach says, you got to be hungry,” Landrum said. “I was hungry and I got to the ball.”
After Marcos Leon's penalty kick cut San Luis' deficit to 2-1 at halftime, Landrum restored Kofa's two-goal lead when he beat a stumbling Jesus Silva to get behind the Sidewinders' defense and blasted a scorcher past goalkeeper Javier Espinoza in the 52nd minute.
Two minutes later, however, the Sidewinders pulled within one again when Erik Luzanilla's free kick outside the goalie box slipped past goalie Zach Garcia and into back of the right corner of the net.
Despite the win, which gives Kofa the inside track to the GVR title, Nicewander said he sees the victory as more of a stepping stone than a benchmark.
“Our quote after every game is, ‘Congratulations, gentlemen. Pat yourself on the back after the win. But remember, you're only as good as your next game,'” Nicewander said. “Our goal, ultimately, we want to win state.”
Cheng Sio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6866.