Panther Soccer Preview 2016

by Coach Steve Sparks, August 17, 2016

This report refers to football, although some call it soccer, or perhaps fútbol. Whichever — I hope you will enjoy the weekly reports on the 2016 AV High School boys team as they once again strive to continue the tradition of excellence, particularly in the last six seasons when five post-season titles have been won.

The 2016 Boys Football season gets underway this Friday, August 19th at Willits and school doesn’t even start until the following week, on Wednesday, August 24th!

This season the team plays 17 league matches plus six non-league games that will count in the overall postseason seedings. I suspect the main rivals for league supremacy will be Roseland Prep from Santa Rosa (five-time repeat regular season Champions) and Calistoga —with the Panthers these three have held the top three spots in the final league standings nine of the last ten years. But no games are forgone conclusions — the overall standard of play across the league has greatly improved lately.

This is my 15th season as Coach and will once again have the part-time services of two alumni as my assistant coaches. Eddie Ferreyra: AV class of 2003; a League All-Star, and one of the most talented players to ever represent the school; and Chuy Sanchez: former team captain and All-League selection when as a freshman. We hope other alumni will also be able to lend a hand at practices during the season.

We’ll have one of our most experienced teams we’ve put on the field in the program’s 21 years. Six starters return for their senior year. Chirro Tovar (also selected for the All-League 1st Team), Gerardo Torales (All-League 2nd Team), Christian Guerrero, David Eligio (All-League Honorable Mention), Carlos Hernandez, and ’keeper Isaac Sanchez, plus Nati Alvarez; while three sophomores who have had extensive playing experience this year will also be back for their junior year. Jorge Mejia, Omar Mendoza, and Jorge Medina.

Junior, Ulises Garcia, suffered a bad knee dislocation in practice a couple of weeks ago and he will now miss the entire season. Ulises was an All-League 2nd team selection as a sophomore, the only one in the league from that grade to be selected to the team. He is a great student athlete and a pleasure to coach so this is a major blow to him and the team.

This season’s returning freshmen are Johnnie Magana, Alan Gonzales, and Christian Guera, plus the talented striker Juan Reynosa who missed last season entirely. With incoming freshmen from the junior high school team, this strong squad will no doubt be pushing for further honors. The regular season title is the initial goal; In postseason the school has decided to take on the larger school tournament. Having won the small school play-off title in five of the last six seasons we thought the team needed a greater test; with so many seniors in the squad, this is the year to take on this very difficult challenge.

As well as a demanding league program, Athletic Director Robert Pinoli has once again managed to get us some difficult non-league matches (including a trip to San Francisco on August 27th to play Urban High School, the champions of the bigger school play-offs last year). However, I fully expect our efforts to be rewarded with yet another solid season and a winning record, hopefully resulting in an appearance in the play-offs for the 12th year in a row.

Following the trip to Willits, the team makes one of the longer away trips of the regular season in Kelseyville the first day of school (Wednesday, August 24th), before making the aforementioned visit to San Francisco in a third non-league match. The first home game will also be non-league on Monday, August 29th against Middletown at 4.30pm at Tom Smith Field alongside the high school. As always your support at the matches is much appreciated. We play exciting football and, as I’ve often said, vociferous home crowd support is probably worth a goal a game! Hope to see you there. Let’s go Panthers!

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