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By Loren Kopff
The Gahr boys soccer team may have defeated Cerritos again but it wasn’t as easy as the previous meetings between the city rivals. Gahr got a goal early in the game and another one late in the contest to escape with a 2-0 victory.
In the past three games against the Dons heading into this past Tuesday’s game at Hanford Rants Stadium, the Gladiators had outscored the southsiders15-2. But Cerritos, under first-year head coach Caesar Ortega, had immediately opened up some doubters as the Dons began the season with two wins in their first four games, which is two more than all of last season. That alone made Gahr head coach Jim Keating very cautious about his foe.
“I had a senior start day, so all of my seniors started even if they weren’t first choice players,” Keating said. “We made some changes along the way. I still think the team underperformed. We didn’t play to our potential, even when we got back to our starting 11.”
“The team played pretty well the whole 80 minutes that we had,” Ortega said of his squad. “Unfortunately two mistakes killed us. In the first half, we created more chances than they did.”
Nine minutes into the game, Gahr senior midfielder Joel Montalvo fed a pass to sophomore forward Chris Castaneda who made it 1-0. It was only one of five shots the Gladiators (2-3) would get in the first half. In the 20th minute, Gahr sophomore midfielder Alan Torres missed a chance to make it 2-0 and four minutes later, a shot from junior forward Austin DeMedeiros was tipped up and over the crossbar by Cerritos junior goalkeeper Jonathan Morales.
Cerritos (2-2-1) began the second half on a tear and had its best chances of the game to find the back of the net. In the 43rd minute, senior forward Jeffrey Aguilar’s shot was saved by junior net minder Enrique Aguilar. But over the next three minutes, Morales stuffed a pair of Gahr shots to keep it a 1-0 contest.
Gahr iced the game in the 65th minute when junior forward Armando Lopez followed up on a DeMedeiros shot that was initially blocked by Morales. Still, the Dons seemed to be a step away or a half a second away from taking a shot or getting to a loose ball first.
“The problem with our players is that they don’t think about what they’re going to do before they take a shot,” Ortega said. “They just see the ball in front of them and take a shot. We’re still a work in progress.”
“At 1-0, we basically told our players that [our] play was unacceptable,” Keating said. “The game should have been put to bed in the first half. They’re a team we should handle easily. Both teams came out in the second half and really ignited things. Both goalkeepers came up huge.”
Gahr finished the game with 14 shots but also took nine corner kicks and came up empty on all of those opportunities. While the Gladiators are off to a slow start, the early headlines still remain with Cerritos, which has won four games in the past four seasons and went winless last season. Ortega, last season’s junior varsity coach, says he is on a four-year plan to turn the program around.
“The mentality last year for the varsity level was, ‘we’re here just to play and to have fun’,” Ortega said. “I remembered last year, if you came to tryout, you made the team. This year, only the top players were going to make the team.”
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