As the Thomas Fire disrupted every area boys soccer team’s non-league schedule, Pioneer Valley and Lompoc managed to work things out and add a rare Monday night non-league showdown.
But it was the Panthers who showed little rust by using a late second-half surge to top the Braves – scoring three goals in the final period to oust LHS boys soccer 4-1 at PVHS.
Both teams – like many in the Northern Santa Barbara County region – have had difficulty with scheduling practices and keeping legs fresh as the fire put a damper on games and practices. Both PVHS head coach Alan Brafman and LHS head coach Marco Vargas said this non-league battle was a last minute addition to their teams’ schedules – as a way to stay fresh before they enter league play in January.
Brafman, who has had his guys running around in the PVHS gym while trying to share with the Panther basketball teams, said his guys had a few early kinks before that late spark.
“We started a little flat. But then we adjusted the defense,” Brafman said, whose team is now 5-1 overall. “I actually don’t have a lot of my players today. I have one in Mexico and three hurt. We’re having a hard time with the forwards. But I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids. They’re excellent kids.”
Pioneer Valley shook off an early J.D. Montelongo goal in the first period by turning to Jesse Morales, who blasted his right side attempt through the net near the 19 minute mark.
The Panthers then clamped down on defense, turning to a pressure scheme that forced bad shot selections or turnovers.
“We started covering really well,” Brafman said, who cited Angel Gonzalez and David Mora as two of the top defenders against the Braves. “Angel has very good timing on the ball and is excellent covering. And David is good on stops.”
Rigoberto Maldonado broke the 1-1 tie with his goal early in the second half. Then, at the 19:40 mark of the second period, Morales tacked on goal No. 2 for the evening and extended the lead to 3-1.
Eriberto Cortez was the final Panther to score – getting the ball to roll inside the net after his left hand corner kick with nearly two minutes left in the game.
Like PVHS, the Braves have had to find ways to stay active due to the long layover from the Thomas Fire. But unlike the Panthers, the Braves haven’t managed to squeeze in a lot of practice time.
“We haven’t practiced in at least two weeks,” Vargas said. “PV then scheduled a last minute game for us. So we were hoping to get these guys back into shape and back into playing – basically just shaking off the rust.”
Vargas concludes that PVHS was the only opponent that was added to the Braves’ schedule and now LHS will shift focus to the upcoming Los Padres League slate in January.
San Marcos 70, Pioneer Valley 59
Jaden Jones’ 22 points weren’t enough for the Panthers to top the Royals on Monday night at PVHS – in a non-league contest that was also added by both teams due to the ongoing blaze.
Taylor Burns added 10 points for the Panthers, while Steven Fuente tacked on nine points.
The Panthers will return to their home gym again on Tuesday night to face Dos Pueblos at 6:30 p.m.