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Panther Soccer (Sep 3, 2014)

(This report generally refers to football, although to some readers the sport in question is soccer, or perhaps futbol. Whichever term you prefer, I hope you will enjoy the weekly reports on the 2014 high school team as they once again strive to continue the tradition of excellence built as a result of many years of success, particularly in the last four seasons when three post-season Championships have been won.)

The late postponement of the opening game against Clear Lake as a result of the very disappointing fact that no officials had been assigned to referee the game, saw the 2014 AV High School Boys’ football season finally getting underway with a non-league match at Kelseyville on Friday, August 29. The team arrived in two vans in time to watch the conclusion of the AV Girls’ team loss against the Knights before preparing to start their own match on what was a very warm late afternoon in the drought-ridden landscape of Lake County.

The game started slowly for the Panthers who struggled with the very poor condition of the pitch that did not help AV’s quick-passing game. However, from their very first attack they opened the scoring. This followed a fine interchange of passes between sophomore strikers Chirro Tovar and Gerardo Torales that led to the latter shooting home from twelve yards out. 1-0 to AV.

The game remained somewhat scrappy, although AV generally dominated possession and played the better football. A couple of chances came and went before on a rare breakaway a Kelseyville striker found himself one-on-one with the Panther ‘keeper Elvis Gaxiola, making his high school debut, only for the forward to blast the ball over the top. This ‘scare’ seemed to push the Panthers into another gear and in the 30th minute they doubled their lead in almost identical fashion to the first goal with the same two strikers involved with the same result. 2-0 to AV. Minutes later Tovar was brought down on the edge of the Kelseyville box and from the ensuing free-kick Fernando Ferreyra drove the ball past the helpless ‘keeper with the aid of a deflection. 3-0 to AV at the half.

The second half would no doubt see the home team trying to get back in the game but the wind was taken out of their sails when, within a minute of the resumption, AV increased their lead. Co-captain Moises Segura, who had a good game throughout in midfield, sent in a perfect cross from the right that was met by the determined Gerardo Torales who completed his hat-trick with a fine header despite the shirt-pulling and elbowing of a desperate defender. With a 4-0 lead, two freshmen — defender Jorge ‘J.D.’ Mejia and goalkeeper Jorge Medina — came on to make their high school debuts as AV continued to create chances but were unable to add to their score.

Kelseyville finally picked up their game a little and scored two goals, both directly from errors by AV in what had been a nearly flawless display by the defense up to that point. It was 4-2 and a little doubt and tiredness began to affect the Panther team. A third goal by the Knights at that time may have caused some significant concern but the Panthers fought back and re-established their dominance with two penalty kicks in the final five minutes, both as a result of blatant fouls on Chirro Tovar by increasingly frustrated defenders, and both converted by Fernando Ferreyra to complete his hat-trick. It had not been a ‘dirty’ match but Kelseyville received four yellow cards and had one player sent off in the final moments by the overly officious referees — a common occurrence in the early days of the season. It finished 6-2, which was certainly a score that reflected the pattern of play over the match as a whole and AV received a ‘B+ grade’ from the Coach during the post game discussion.

The 64-mile return journey to the Valley included a stop for dinner at Taco Loco in Ukiah where a number of the players from our girls’ team had also congregated. Coincidence? I think not. Anyway, despite their loss the girls were very upbeat and the boys thoroughly enjoyed their company as they celebrated this first win of the season. Personally, I enjoyed the delicious carnitas burrito and the football chat with Assistant Coach and volunteer van driver for the game, former AV star player Sergio Gutierrez, all-time record scorer for the Panthers. Despite their hat-tricks in this first match, Torales and Ferreyra have a long way to go to get even close to Sergio’s goal tally for a season: 64 in his junior year, followed in 2010 by 65 as a senior!

The next game is the first home match, at 4.30pm today, Wednesday, Sept 3, a non-league game against Middletown at Tom Smith Field alongside the high school. Our league play starts on the road at Geyserville on Friday, Sept 5 and then the team travels to Cloverdale for a 6pm kick-off the very next day, Saturday Sept 6. This is followed by yet another road trip next Tuesday, Sept 9 to Sonoma Academy in Santa Rosa before a home league game for the Apple Cup against Potter Valley at the Friday night of the Fair. As always your support at the matches is much appreciated. We play exciting football and, as I’ve often said, vociferous home crowd support is probably worth a goal a game! Hope to see you there. Come on you Panthers!

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