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BOYS SOCCER – Slow start leads to emphatic finish for Artesia in season opener against Gahr

December 1, 2021

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter


After two scrimmages against two of the tougher teams the San Gabriel Valley League has to offer, it was time for the Artesia High boys soccer team to get the season rolling for real. And despite a sluggish beginning to their season opener, the Pioneers sure did do a lot of rolling, smashing Gahr High 9-0 this past Tuesday evening.

Artesia peppered Gahr sophomore goalkeeper Edrees Mello to the tune of 35 shots while the Gladiators got off one shot, which didn’t come until the 78th minute. And with the barrage of scoring, the Pioneers didn’t find the back of the net until the 30th minute when sophomore defender David Ramirez connected on a free kick from 28 yards out.

“We played two scrimmages against Paramount and Warren, which are stronger programs, and I thought we played really well,” said Artesia head coach Octavio Marquez. “I think we struggled [tonight] just because Gahr played a much more defensive-type of game; they sent everybody back. I think it took us a while to get into that groove of just being patient and finding the openings; penetrating the middle, which I thought we did a great job in the second half.”

Artesia’s first chance to get on the board came in the 17th minute when junior midfielder Juan Valadez barely missed as the ball went inches above the crossbar. He would connect, though, in the 69th minute for the final tally of the night. Artesia then went up 2-0 four minutes before halftime when junior forward Diego Corona intercepted a bad Gahr pass and knocked in what turned out to be the eventual game-winner. Though down by two goals, Gahr head coach Miguel Canales wasn’t worried too much.

“We were very comfortable, but we also have a very young team that as coaches, we understand that we’re one goal away from either switching the momentum or falling apart,” he said. “And so, it’s okay, it’s part of the learning curve and we’re okay with that. For 35 minutes, they played pretty well. Our goal was to have a solid, defensive game and this school [lost to] Warren and they beat Paramount [who are] in our league and so, we look forward to competing against them.”

“We were hoping to get off to a good start and just work on things that we needed to get better,” Marquez said. “Most of these guys just came from a club tournament where they played five games [this past] weekend. So, yesterday we really couldn’t do much; they had no legs pretty much.”

Artesia took 15 shots in the first half, but it didn’t take long for the onslaught to begin in the second half as less than a minute into action, senior midfielder Raul Pantoja fed a pass to senior forward Joshua Lizarraga to make it 3-0. In the 51st minute, senior forward Jose Gudino got his first tally of the season with the fourth goal of the game and two minutes later, Lizarraga followed up on a shot that Pantoja took, which was misplayed by Mello.

If a 5-0 lead with 27 minutes remaining wasn’t enough, Pantoja boomed a long shot for the game’s sixth goal. Shortly after one of the two referees had to excuse himself from the game, leaving the other to take over for the last 20 minutes of the contest, Pantoja sent a pass to Corona, who curled a beautiful shot in the upper right corner of the net in the 63rd minute. Five minutes after that, senior midfielder Ricky Gonzalez took a shot that bounced off the right post and ricocheted in for an 8-0 lead.

“I think Raul is going to be a big piece for us this year,” Marquez said. “He just brings a lot of experience for our team. He knows the game well. His vision of the field is amazing. He can strike the ball from anywhere. He can give you a 50-foot pass or a nice pass. I think he’s going to be the key for us to succeed.”

“It’s more of a contribution to their pressure,” Canales said. “They have good pressure, and we have individuals who are young, and they get nervous. But we’ll figure it out. We have time.

“As a program, we still have ways to grow and we have the right individuals to do that,” he continued. “I look forward to the rest of the season.”

The last time the two teams faced each other was on Dec. 2, 2019, a 3-2 Pioneers win, and the previous season, Artesia slammed the Gladiators 9-1. Gahr, which began the season with a 6-0 loss to Valley Christian High before knocking off Whitney High 5-2, will host Buena Park High on Tuesday. Artesia travelled to long time Suburban League rival Norwalk High on Dec. 2 to revisit a fierce rivalry between the two programs. Since the 1998-1999 season, the Pioneers hold a 16-15-11 advantage over the Lancers, but the two schools have not met since Artesia joined the 605 League. The Pioneers will host the California Military Institute on Saturday before visiting Portola High on Tuesday and Kennedy High on Thursday.

“On the boys side it’s a little harder to do,” Marquez said of the lopsided win. “Now, I don’t know if it’s…are we that good? I honestly thought, at least the first half, they looked a lot better than they have in the past. I don’t know if it was [because] we just wore them down physically. But I thought our style of play in the second half was a lot better.”