Last Wednesday afternoon, the Panthers drove down Hwy 101 to play the Broncos of Geyserville in what would be the final road game of the regular season. In the earlier meeting AV had dominated the game and had easily won 9-0. It was a similar story on this occasion and the final score was 8-0 with the goals coming from Sergio Gutierrez (3), Chuy Sanchez (2), Chava Gutierrez, Juan Lua, and Carlos Espinosa. Sergio did not play at his usual level and was thwarted by a combination of his own poor finishing and the lack of quality service from the Panther midfield, which was missing the injured Hector Cruz.
As a result, Gutierrez was left needing to score five goals in the final game of the regular season at home last Friday afternoon against the Eagles of Rincon Valley Christian. Following the torrential rain of the previous forty-eight hours the game was played at Tom Smith Field next to the high school in Boonville on a very soggy pitch, completely saturated in many parts, that was virtually unplayable. Nevertheless, a good crowd was on hand, including many families and friends, candidate for Supervisor and Panther fan Dan Hamburg, and many other well-wishers to cheer the team and Sergio on.
Once again AV was without the services of Hector Cruz and now defensive starter, Chavo Eligio was also unavailable for academic reasons. Both would hopefully be over their difficulties in time for the play-offs. The game started off well for the Panthers and both Sergio G. and Elio Gonzales missed relatively easy chances that each of them would score nine times out of ten. This, together with a couple of good saves by the Eagles’ ‘keeper, some fortuitous bounces, and several attacks that broke down due to the large pools of surface water, meant that Rincon were somehow still level at 0-0 after 20 minutes. Then out of nowhere, from a counter attack, the visitors broke into the heart of the Panther defense where the ball suddenly stopped in a puddle, deceiving two defenders and ‘keeper Christian Mendoza, but not the lone Rincon Valley forward who was left the simplest of tap-ins to score. 0-1 to Rincon Valley. Ten minutes late, from another rare Eagle attack, the same striker maintained his composure, following slips by two Panther defenders in the mud, to calmly put the ball wide of Mendoza. It was 0-2 at the half.
The second half saw AV dominate possession but Rincon were continually dangerous on the counter attacks. AV had several chances to score and on another day they probably would have had a healthy lead. Finally with fifteen minutes to go Chuy Sanchez scored and it looked like AV might still get a positive result. However, just a few minutes later, a speculative shot from twenty-five yards, that bounced awkwardly on the saturated surface and eluded Mendoza in the Panther goal, finally put the game beyond the out-of-sorts Panthers. It finished 1-3 to Rincon Valley and AV had lost to a team they had hammered 5-0 just four weeks earlier and would now have to settle for a tie for 2nd place in the league.
The Eagles’ coach offered the comment that on a decent playing surface his team would have certainly lost to the more talented AV team but perhaps he was doing his players a disservice. They were the better team in some ways on this day. They had worked very hard and sometimes you earn your luck in sports, this was certainly an example of that. Meanwhile, everyone involved with the AV team — players, coaches, and fans alike — were stunned. It was a major disappointment and one of the poorest results for two or three seasons. Now the question was, Would the team’s post season seeding be harmed by this shocking result?
The answer to that was ‘No,’ because when the play-off draw was made on Sunday, AV was given the #1 Seed in the Division III Play-off section. In previous years AV has been in Division II, a bracket for schools with 600 students or less, and it was felt that for small schools an extra Division should be created for those with 300 or less students. AV High has a student body of only 160, so although the Panthers had reached the semi-finals of this larger schools’ division in three of the last five seasons, it was felt the new section presented a much fairer way of organizing the post season. As the #1 seeds, AV will get a bye in the first round before facing the winner of the match played tonight (Nov 3rd), between Bay School of SF and Bentley from the East Bay in the quarter-final this coming Saturday, Nov 6th at Tom Smith Field here in Boonville. Kick-off is at 2pm and your support for this game would be greatly appreciated. ¥¥
Final Regular Season Record (W-L-D): League 14-2-2; Overall 16-3-4