Coming off a pair of losses, the Cougar varsity soccer boys closed out the season on a winning note. They went 1-2 during the week, wrapping up with a road victory against the Riverbank Bruins on Friday, May 28.
Earlier, they took a 5-2 loss to Sierra and were shut out, 9-0, at Oakdale.
They played the Sierra Timberwolves on May 25 and fell behind 4-0 at the half.
“We moved some players around, changed some formations and played much better in the second half,” explained head coach Paul Silva. “About three minutes in to the second, Matthew Baptista scored on a penalty kick.”
CJ Borrego cut the deficit to 4-2 on a breakaway, but Sierra scored with about 20 minutes left in the game for the 5-2 final.
“It was really a tale of two halves,” admitted Silva. “We weren’t good in the first; we were really good in the second half.”
Brayan Barrientos was in goal and had four saves in the first half; Aldo Yepiz made five saves over the final 40minutes.
On the road at Oakdale on May 26, the Cougar offense was nowhere to be found and the host Mustangs capitalized on every chance, sending Escalon home with a lopsided 9-0 loss.
“It was 2-0 at the half and we had a few opportunities early,” Silva explained. “The start of the second, they knocked in a couple.”
That helped the Mustangs start to pull away and, Silva noted, both the Cougar goalies got hurt during the game.
“Oakdale was connecting on some amazing shots,” added Silva.
Friday, the team had a chance to take on Riverbank, scheduling a game with their Trans-Valley League rival, outside of league play this year, as Escalon was moved to the Valley Oak League due to the pandemic.
It was 1-1 at the half, Escalon’s first half goal coming on a corner kick.
“Luis Flores sent it in and CJ Borrego scored off a header, that was about 10 minutes in,” Silva said.
Riverbank got the tying goal about six minutes later and the teams battled through the rest of the first half with neither side getting back on the scoreboard.
Flores had a tremendous game and helped create both second half tallies for the Cougars.
About 13 minutes in to the second half, Flores saw teammate Andres Beltran and was able to get him the ball, with Beltran taken out in the box on the potential breakaway. That set up a penalty kick and Silva had Flores take the shot, as Beltran was a little shaken up. Flores converted to make it 2-1 Escalon.
Shortly thereafter, the two teamed up again, Flores working the ball to a point where he could release Beltran on a rush up the field. Again, the Bruins took down Beltran in the box. His time, he took the penalty kick and converted, putting the Cougars up by a 3-1 score.
“Riverbank scored with about three minutes left,” Silva said of the 3-2 final.
With both goalies hurt in the match against Oakdale earlier in the week, the Cougars went with a trio of keepers for the game at Riverbank. Dylan Criteser played about 50 minutes of the contest and had five saves, said Silva, with Jacen Peoples in net for about 10 minutes with a couple of saves and Alejandro Rodriguez also making a handful of saves as he played about 20 minutes.
“Matthew Baptista was amazing on the defensive line, Riverbank had some speed and attacking opportunities and Matthew canceled out their striker,” explained Silva. “Luis Flores was amazing up top, dribbling through everybody.”
The two helped lift the Cougars to a win in their season finale, ending with an overall record of 4-8-1.
“It was a very unique year,” Silva pointed out. “We had kids also doing track, golf and baseball, that made it trying at times, but it was worth it.”