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Panther Soccer (Sep 10, 2014)

(This report mostly uses the term “football” when referring to the world’s game, although to some readers the sport in question is “soccer,” or perhaps “futbol.” Whichever term you use, 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 first home match of the year took place last Wednesday (Sep.3) when the Panthers hosted Middletown in a non-league game. This has been a fairly comfortable game for AV in recent times but, under a new head coach, the visitors were a different proposition this time and despite dominating the first half and creating several good chances, AV were held by the battling Middletown team to just one goal by half-time. This came from Moises Segura, shooting low and hard into the far corner of the net from wide of the goal on the right following a fine defense-splitting pass from Fernando Ferreyra. The second half was somewhat similar except that with the score still at 1-0 to AV the visitors had a couple of good half-chances to draw level. They failed to take advantage of these and were made to pay when in the final ten minutes the Panthers scored two more goals. The first of these came from a good cross from the right by Romario Espinoza that was headed against the post by Chirro Tovar before David Eligio scored his first high school goal by heading in the rebound from five yards. Then Eligio turned provider when he cleverly beat Middletown’s best defender before crossing the ball into the box where Tovar met it perfectly, powerfully heading the ball into the net from ten yards out. It finished 3-0 and while the Panthers had played some excellent possession football at times, their profligacy in front of goal, coupled by a much-improved Middletown side, meant that the usual comfortable win in this match-up was anything but on this occasion.

This match was followed by two away games in two days. First the team traveled to Geyserville last Friday for the first league match of the season. After many years of struggle, recent seasons have seen the Coyotes being far more competitive and they have made the play-offs in the past two seasons where in last season’s semi-final AV beat them 3-0. Playing on their field is never easy and it was stressed that while the Panthers have more overall ability they would have to match the home team’s intensity if they were to come away with a victory. AV started well but against the run of play a speculative shot from 25 yards somehow eluded the Panther “keeper and it was 1-0 to Geyserville. The Panthers responded less than two minutes later when Chirro Tovar side-footed past the ’keeper from eight yards out following a perfect low cross from Moises Segura and they then took the lead in the 31st minute when Fernando Ferreyra set-up Marco Alarcon with a powerful shot from 22 yards that went in off the cross-bar. It was 2-1 at the half to AV The Coyotes came out strong in the second half but just five minutes in they conceded an all-important goal third goal for AV when Tovar prodded home a cross from Alarcon at the near post. At the 60th minute it was 4-1 when Tovar completed his hat-trick following another assist by Alarcon. It seemed to be all over but a controversial penalty-kick was awarded to the Coyotes and following its conversion the hosts, with loud support from their fans, appeared to be suddenly back in the game. However, AV weathered the brief storm and dampened the home supporters” enthusiasm by adding a fifth goal from the penalty spot when Ferrerya scored after a clumsy foul had been committed against Tovar. It finished 5-2. a fair reflection of the game, and AV had their first league points of the season in the bag, duly celebrated at the eateries in Cloverdale on the return journey. Normally the team eats together after a road game but on this occasions they were given a choice. 6 players ate Mexican food, 6 went for pizza, three chose Subway sandwiches along with myself, and the two freshmen went to McDonald’s, whatever all that means.

The very next day saw another road trip as the Panthers headed south once again, this time to Cloverdale for an early evening kick-off in the Highway 128 Trophy match. The absence of co-captain Gualberto Gastelum meant a starting debut in defense for freshman Jorge “J.D.” Mejia, while ’keeper Elvis Gaxiola was not 100% so he started on the bench, giving the other freshman on the squad, Jorge Medina, his first start for the school. AV has won the corresponding match relatively easily in recent years and even with these significant changes to the line-up, this occasion was no exception. The freshmen gave a good account of themselves and the team dominated the match, with goals from Chirro Tovar (2), Gerardo Torales (2), and Moises Segura providing the Panthers with a 5-1 lead at the break. As a result, the second half saw extended playing time for bench players David Eligio, Izac Parra, and Carlos Garibay, along with the addition of two more goals. one from an unstoppable Fernando Ferreyra free-kick while the other completed the hat-trick for Chirro Tovar. his second three-goal performance in two days, a rare feat indeed. The game finished 7-1 and the Panthers had a very encouraging four-game winning streak to open the season.

Our demanding Athletic Director, Mr. Robert Pinoli, has the team scheduled for 9 games in 18 days and at the time of writing the team is about to embark on the fourth match of this stretch, yet another away game. this time at Sonoma Academy on Tuesday, September 9. On Friday, September 12, the team finally “comes home” and will face Potter Valley at 5pm for the Apple Cup, played at the County Fair at The Fairgrounds. This will followed by another road-trip, to Clearlake on Monday 15, before the team enjoys a run of four home matches, starting on Wednesday, September 17 against Rincon Valley. 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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