They had only one Trans-Valley League game this past week, but the Escalon Cougars made the most of the opportunity.
The varsity soccer boys battled back from a 3-0 deficit at the half to forge a 4-4 tie with Riverbank.
Though he would have preferred the win, head coach Paul Silva said the tie was important, as they are battling with Riverbank for a playoff spot.
“They scored the first three goals,” Silva said of the host Bruins, with the game at Riverbank played on Thursday, Jan. 23. “On the first two, we made bad mistakes and they took advantage.”
The third Bruin goal came on a deflection off a Cougar defender and the visitors found themselves in a deep hole after the first half of play.
They dug deep, however, and steadily chipped away with renewed energy and purpose in the second half.
“About four minutes in to the second half, Alexiz Rodriguez scored a goal, Emiliano Ramirez had the assist,” Silva explained. “At the eight-minute mark, Alexiz scored on a penalty kick.”
That got the Cougars to within one goal and they kept the pressure on, eventually getting the equalizer with Ramirez scoring off the assist from Rodriguez. It looked like the comeback might be complete when Rodriguez notched his third goal of the game, with the assist from Willyan Vargas to go up 4-3.
“With about 10 minutes to play, Riverbank scored to tie it,” Silva said.
Having to settle for the tie, however, was a far better outcome than the early 3-0 deficit would indicate.
“We weren’t playing bad (in the first half) they just took advantage,” the coach said. “At halftime we talked about stepping up our intensity, we pressured Riverbank in the second half and it really made a difference. I was very proud of the effort and intensity in that half, they really got after it.”
Keeper Brayan Barrientos had seven saves and played a strong game.
“He did well, he made some nice saves and he commanded the box, he made his presence known in there,” Silva said.
The team also was buoyed by the return of teammate Jorge Arellano, a senior who was involved in a single vehicle accident while returning from a preseason game in Calaveras.
With serious injuries including facial fractures, leg and back injuries, Arellano is finally on the mend and attended the game in Riverbank to cheer on his teammates.
“After the accident, it was hard, having to continue on with games and practices,” Silva admitted, noting that the team was definitely conflicted and often not focused as they worried about the health of their teammate. “Jorge is just super positive, always supportive and he gave us a lift on Thursday; it was a big boost.”
Escalon’s JV Cougars traveled to Riverbank for the Jan. 23 contest and took a 4-1 win off the field. The squad spread the scoring around, said head coach Polo Rodriguez. Notching goals in the win, each getting single tallies in the contest, were Miguel Granados, Ulises Garcia Benitez, Andres Beltran and Vicente Gonzalez.