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BOYS SOCCER : Norwalk ends non-league slate with fourth shutout of season, blanks Gahr

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Gahr High senior forward Kevin Obi has a shot attempt blocked away by Norwalk High senior goalkeeper Juan Pablo Camacho in last Friday afternoon’s contest. Norwalk, the sixth ranked team in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 poll,  shutout Gahr 4-0 to improve to 9-2-1 overall.  PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

The Gahr High and Norwalk High boys soccer teams are heading in opposite directions and it showed when they faced each other last Friday at Dr. Hanford Rants Stadium. Four different players scored for Norwalk and the Lancers finished off their non-league portion of the schedule with another win as its Suburban League schedule began on Jan. 9.

Norwalk whitewashed the Gladiators 4-0 to improve to 9-2-1 and kept its history of strong Novembers and Decembers going. In fact, Norwalk, which blanked Gahr 6-0 last season, has had a winning campaign 13 times out of the past 15 seasons and with eight games remaining in the regular season, barring a complete meltdown, Norwalk figures to keep that trend going.

“You try to [schedule tough competition], but some teams are stronger and weaker,” said longtime Norwalk head coach Vinson Pluma. “We had some strong teams, but sometimes they don’t come out as strong. It’s hit or miss sometimes. Anaheim…that’s a good team and we were up 3-1, but they came back and tied us. We have limitations with how far we can go with some of the games. But we weren’t prepared for Schurr mentally and Bell Gardens…those were the two games we lost. I’m glad that we played them. They were stronger than usual, and we were just not prepared.”

Norwalk was missing three starters, but you couldn’t tell the way it was moving up and down the field against the Gladiators, who have had a hard time finding the back of the net. The Lancers peppered Gahr senior goalkeeper Jeovany Vergara for 10 shots in the first half with two getting behind him. Norwalk began the scoring in the 13thminute when senior forward Abel Marin took a rebound from a blocked shot and headed in his sixth goal of the season. 

The best scoring chance for the Gladiators in the game came in the 21stminute. Junior midfielder Jomar Munaf took a free kick that appeared to be going towards the right side of the net. However, Norwalk senior goalkeeper Juan Pablo Camacho dove to his left and punched the ball away. The Lancers then added their second goal two minutes later when senior midfielder Christopher Peregrina raced down the left sideline before sending a long pass to the opposite side of the field where midfielder Lucas Paz, recently called up from the junior varsity team, notched his second goal of the season.

“[Gahr] is just down this year, so it’s really hard to tell, Pluma said. “But it’s good that we got some other guys to play. We saw some good combination play up front. We really didn’t get our defense tested. For this one game, we’re glad that we did what we needed to do.”

Four minutes into the second half, Marin assisted on junior forward Erick Velasco’s team-leading 12thgoal and senior midfielder Christopher Guijarro capped off the scoring in the 71stminute off a rebound for his third goal. Guijarro, Marin, Paz and Velasco have combined for 23 goals while have eight players have combined for the other eight goals the team has scored.

“They’re going to be our leading scorers and they’re going to probably be the guys that are going to be able to be dynamic and creative on the field and be able to just make things happen for us and keep the pressure off our defense,” Pluma said of Guijarro, Marin and Velasco. “Last year, we didn’t score too many goals, but we didn’t let a lot of goals in. We were very defensive last year. This year, we’re going to me more offensive and hopefully keep teams from scoring. Right now, we’re letting more goals in than we did last year.”

Gahr dropped to 2-10-0 after falling to Downey High 4-1 this past Tuesday in the San Gabriel Valley League opener. The Gladiators also travelled to Dominguez High on Jan. 9 and will visit Lynwood High on Tuesday before hosting Warren High on Thursday. 

Norwalk, which visited Suburban League newcomer Firebaugh High on Jan. 9, will host Bellflower High on Tuesday and La Mirada High on Thursday with both games to be played at John Glenn High. Due to construction being done on Norwalk’s athletic fields, the soccer team has had to play all their games on the road with designated home games being played at Excelsior Stadium or Glenn.

“We don’t know too much about Firebaugh,” said Pluma, who has over 220 wins in his 17 seasons as Norwalk’s head coach. “We played them years ago and they’re a small school. La Mirada looks like they’ve been playing similar teams in our area and Bellflower as well. La Mirada is going to sit back and counterattack on us and Bellflower is going to try to go head to head with us, and if they have the players, then it’s going to be challenging.”