Here we go again. For the sixth year in succession, the AV Panthers are headed for the play-offs where, after receiving a first round bye as a result of their fine efforts in the regular season, they faced Bay School of San Francisco last Saturday afternoon at Tom Smith Field in Boonville for a place in the semi-finals. The event had a little extra flavor in that the new uniforms, paid for by our community via the fundraiser held just before the season began, had arrived on Friday afternoon and the Gold and Brown looked resplendent as they took the field a little before 2pm.
Bay School had won a hard fought first round play-off game 3-2 against Bentley from Lafayette in the East Bay, and had arguably played a harder schedule than AV during the regular season down in the Bay Area. But with a partisan crowd of about 100 on hand to support the Panthers, it was hoped that the overall skill of the home side together with this local support would see them through.
Following the pre-game introductions and playing of the national anthem, the game got underway. Any doubts about the Panthers not adding work-rate and determination to their undoubted ability were soon put aside as they dominated the play from the kick-off and in the 9th minute Chuy Sanchez won the ball in midfield and passed through to Elio Gonzales who in turn flicked the ball wide to Sergio Gutierrez. The next few seconds were yet another re-run of a sequence that has been seen literally dozens of times over the past few months as the Panther striker burst past a startled defender from the right side of the goal and hammered a shot from 15 yards, low and hard into the far corner of the goal. 1-0 to AV.
The next few minutes saw Bay play some decent soccer but with Hector Cruz returning to the starting line-up after a two-game injury absence and Chava Gutierrez competently organizing the defense, the game gradually returned to the Panthers’ control. Sergio G scored a second in the 16th minute and freshman Omar Solano added a third in the 22nd. Sergio completed a first half hat-trick in the 37th minute and so it was 4-0 to AV at the half.
The start of the second half witnessed an explosion of offense by AV as they added five goals in the first fourteen minutes – Sergio getting two more for a total of five on the day and strike partner Elio Gonzales adding a hat-trick of his own to make it 9-0. Over that time, and for the rest of the match, most of the Panther bench players all played extensively and while they continued to be the better side no more goals were added. Apart from the two strikers and those mentioned above, excellent games were also turned in by Louis ‘Cameron’ Murillo at the back and Eric Guerrero in the middle.
Almost as good as the result was the post-game food that was put on after the game at the side of the field by many of the players’ mothers and friends. The vast majority of the crowd stuck around for this feast and the joy and laughter of all these Valley folks was only matched by the really delicious food. Many thanks to all the cooks, I must say.
The semifinal will be against Drew School of San Francisco and it takes place tonight, Wednesday, November 10th, at The Fairgrounds in Boonville at 7pm. AV and Drew met in the first game of the season back in late August down in SF with the Panthers winning 3-1. Both teams have played a lot of soccer since then and have no doubt improved. It should be a tight battle and your support would be greatly appreciated as AV attempts to reach its first ever post season Championship game.
Season Record: League 14-2-2; Overall 17-3-4
(Not wishing to be premature, but if the Panthers win in the semi-final tonight, the Championship Game will be played at Tom Smith Field at the High School on Saturday, November 13th, kick-off at 2pm. PS. It should be pointed out that the entrance fee for this game, and all play-off games, is set by the governing body for high school sports – California Interscholastic Federation – North Coast Section (CIFNCS), not by Anderson Valley High School.