Christopher boys soccer overwhelms Gilroy | Gilroy Dispatch

Christopher boys soccer overwhelms Gilroy | Gilroy Dispatch

For the first time since the 2017-18 season – an eight-match span – Christopher High beat Crosstown rival Gilroy High in men’s football.

On Jan. 25, the visiting Cougars earned a 3-0 win in a Santa Teresa East Division game of the Blossom Valley Athletic League, nearly five years after the exact day they beat the Mustangs for the last time. On January 30, 2018, Christopher edged his rivals, 1-0.

It’s not like Gilroy has been dominating the series lately because before this game teams had finished in a draw four times in a row. However, GHS was once a powerhouse in the Central Coast section and beat CHS by scores of 3-1 and 6-1 in the 2018-2019 season.

Thus, the significance has not been lost on Cougars coach Josue Salgado, who shared an office with Mustangs coach Armando Padilla when Salgado was a physical education teacher at GHS.

“Gilroy High School has always been the powerhouse of football [locally], and we’ve been like the little brother, so it feels good to now not only be able to compete, but to walk into their house and get a convincing win,” Salgado said. “It’s an amazing, amazing feeling.”

The game may have taken a lot from both sides. Two days after the match, CHS lost 3-0 to Sobrato and GHS lost 3-0 to Mount Pleasant. Christopher entered the week 8-3-3 overall and 3-2-1 in the league, fourth out of six teams. Meanwhile, Gilroy’s rebuilding squad entered the week 0-5-1 in division action.

Gilmar Torres, Michael Ruiz and Ezra Echauri scored within 11 minutes of the first half, turning a scoreless game into a runaway. CHS strikers Avery Montejano and Torres gave Gilroy adjustments throughout the first half with their explosiveness to get to the attacking third.

“Defensively, as a unit, we hadn’t yet faced someone as fast as their two forwards,” Padilla said. “They are fast and it was the first time we had faced a speed like that, and we struggled to adapt to it in the first half. … But in the second half you can see that we made our adjustment, curbed their speed, then pushed forward in the first and second half, we just don’t have that one finisher.

Both starters – Kevin Davidson of the Mustangs and Ricardo Bustamante of the Cougars – played well. In the first half, Davidson made a few tough saves to keep the score from skyrocketing even further. In the 17th minute, Montejano made a run down the left touchline before delivering a superb ball into the penalty area at the feet of Torres, who fired a shot into the bottom left corner.

However, Davidson made a diving save. Minutes later, Echauri hit an absolute laser from 35 yards out which was thwarted by another terrific save from Davidson. However, Echauri wouldn’t be disallowed in the 37th minute, hammering a direct free kick just inside the left touchline to the opposite top right corner that would be considered a goal contender of the year in any season.

“It’s something Ezra practices, but I tell him you hit them well in practice, but I want to see you hit that in a game,” Salgado said. “And he hit it in arguably the biggest game of the year.”

Echauri’s goal capped a CHS uprising which began in the 26th minute when Torres received an excellent through ball and found himself in a 1v1 situation in midfield. He dribbled 10 yards and rushed to his left to win the split before delivering an unstoppable shot for a 1-0 lead.

Six minutes later, Echauri delivered a classic corner to Ruiz, who scored from a header around the penalty area. Salgado noted the play of midfielders Echauri, Ruiz and Jason Procopio as one of the keys to the season.

“Mikey and Jason do a great job of disrupting play, winning tackles and playing hard,” Salgado said. “And Ezra does a great job of orchestrating being that bridge between defence, midfielders and forwards.”

Defensively, CHS have been solid with Daniel Diaz, Nicholas Armeniakos and Victor Ogieriakhi. Bustamante was solid and made some impressive saves to preserve the shutout against GHS. Salgado said a crucial part of the team’s success was watching movies and constantly evaluating their game.

“We spend a lot of time in the library watching movies,” he says. “I know it’s not always fun for the players to do. We try to watch two, sometimes even three times a week. They always hate it when we start at the library because nobody wants to see their mistakes and what they need to improve. But when they see it and watch it, they apply it in training and games. And that’s why we kind of managed to hit our stride here.

For the GHS, it’s all about development and improvement. Eight of his 11 starters were either freshmen or sophomores, but Padilla said his young team was starting to acclimate to the college level.

“It’s a little more physical, a little faster, a little more direct,” he said. “You can see it with Christopher, obviously. They have two talented players in mind. What is the tactic? Just move the ball forward. We don’t have that player, so we try to use our squad, where we outnumber everyone sharing the ball touching every blade of grass on the pitch before moving forward.

Padilla said the team has many building blocks, including defenders Darren Hernandez, Angel Galicia, Brandon Bernardo; midfielders Ian Honeycutt, Nova Padilla, Guillermo Valdez; and upstairs with Kai Gemar.

“Obviously if I rate the season on wins and losses, then we’ve had a horrible season. But I look at the development and how we’ve progressed through the season, and I think that’s been a huge success,” Padilla said. “So I’m happy with that and the kids are receptive to [my] philosophy and what we are trying to teach. So I’m looking forward to next year and the year after.

The CHS-GHS game is always well attended, and Salgado made sure to show his appreciation for the fan support by thanking the CHS crowd moments after the final whistle.

“I told our kids it was a special kind of game because it’s a small town, so they all know each other and all their friends come over to watch,” Salgado said. “These games are super special.”

Gilmar Torres scores the first goal of the match in Christopher’s 3-0 victory over Gilroy. Photo by Jonathan Natividad. Gilroy sophomore Darren Hernandez looks to control possession against Christopher. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

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