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BOYS SOCCER: Artesia starts fast, tails off in the second half before holding on for season-opening win

December 1, 2022

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Artesia High’s season-opener with Gahr High this past Tuesday evening was nothing like the one last season that kicked off the program’s 23-2-1 campaign which included a CIF-Southern Section Division 5 championship, the first in school history. In that contest, the Pioneers started slow but blasted the Gladiators 9-0 with seven goals coming in the second half.

This time around, Artesia continued its stingy defense, allowing two shots on goal in the first half while the team struck for four goals within the first 16 minutes, and held on for a 4-2 victory despite a less than impressive offensive attack the final 60 minutes.

“It’s just something that we’ve been trying to push these guys…to get the fast start,” said Artesia head coach Octavio Marquez, “Obviously this year, with winning CIF, our target on the back is going to be a lot bigger. Every team that comes against us is going to want to beat us, and they’re just going to bring it. I think Gahr showed that. They were down 4-0, but then they picked it up and they did a great job the rest of the game.”

Artesia wasted little time in scoring the first goal as two minutes in, sophomore midfielder Adrian Martinez raced down the right side of the field and took a shot that bounced off the far post and inside the left side of Gahr’s net. In the 10th minute, senior forward Ivan Navarro used his speed to get past the final defender off a header and sent the ball past sophomore netminder Victor Enciso.

A minute later, Navarro assisted on a goal from junior midfielder Imanol Hernandez and in the 16th minute, senior forward Rodrigo Romero’s corner kick made its way to senior defender Eric Buenrostro who capped off the early onslaught.

“These boys really want to do really well and part of that, sometimes, is they psyche themselves out; playing not to make a mistake instead of just playing,” said Gahr head coach Miguel Canales. “Part of that was exactly that. They were a little bit too cautious. They were prepared on how they were going to attack.

“They executed and we didn’t prepare our defense,” he continued. “Mentally, on paper, we knew how we wanted to defend. But we weren’t able to handle their press.”

Normally, when a team is up 4-0 this early in the game, the foot remains on the pedal and the chances of more scoring increases. Instead, Gahr found new life in the 23rd minute when sophomore Steven Padilla got loose on a breakaway and found a way to move the ball past junior goalkeeper Daniel Zamarripa.

“It’s always hard when you get a 4-0 lead [because] the kids get a little bit content, and I think that’s what happened,” said Marquez. “[Gahr] picked it up and we didn’t respond. I don’t think we responded the rest of the first half or the second half.”

After getting 10 shots on Enciso in the first half, the Pioneers could only muster three shots in the next 40 minutes. Part of that, according to Marquez, can be attributed to his team not being in shape. Most of his team plays club soccer and were in tournaments over the Thanksgiving weekend, which is why the Pioneers started their season two weeks after most teams.

Gahr would attack Zamarripa more in the second half, getting off five shots, and tacking on its second tally in the 76th minute on a penalty kick from junior Diego Valadez, which went to the goalie’s right side.

“For them, it was more understanding that they can actually play toe to toe with Artesia, and they believed that,” said Canales. “They knew that coming in, and then they finally calmed down. We added a little bit of help in the middle of the field, and they were ready for that adjustment. We were going to make that adjustment regardless. So, the energy was there. We just needed to make sure we attacked, and we did.”

The Pioneers faced Sierra Vista High and Los Altos High on Dec. 1 in the Premier Varsity Soccer Tournament and will also play Mountain View High today in the same event, which goes through Saturday. Artesia will then visit Santa Fe High on Tuesday before hosting California High on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Gahr (2-2) completed three straight games with 605 League opponents and will entertain Yorba Linda on Friday before going to Buena Park on Wednesday.

“They have a chip on their shoulders,” said Canales of his team. “These boys want to do really well. We played Valley Christian and beat them 2-0. We knew we were going to play Artesia; last year we played poorly [against them] and we weren’t going to play that poorly again.”