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Panther Soccer (Oct 7, 2015)

The annual Alumni game took place last Wednesday evening when this year’s High School team faced players from several previous seasons in what is always a close contest, with the school team holding a 4-2 edge over the last six games. This one was no different but ultimately the Alumni, whose overall physical superiority proved to be a deciding factor, came out on top with a narrow 2-1 victory. I would like to thank the following Alumni who showed up to play in the match, one that gave the school team a valuable workout and challenge. Sergio Gutierrez, Eddie Reynoso, Ivan Jimenez, Justin Johnson, Omar Solano, Moises Segura, Ramon Jimenez, Pancho Lievanos, Emilio Torales, Eric Martinez, Chavo Cacho, and high school Spanish teacher Jorge Caratachea who is not an alumnus and probably should have played for the school team, particularly as he is a good footballer and played an important role in the Alumni’s win!

Next up was arguably the most important game of the season, certainly given the implications of the opponents, Calistoga, now being in the small school play-off bracket along with AV. In those play-offs, home field advantage, if the two teams were to meet in the postseason, will be decided by the results of the two matches between the teams during the regular season.

This was the first of those meetings and a good crowd of 60-plus was on hand at the game at Tom Smith Field at the high school in Boonville. The Panthers started a little tentatively in terms of maintaining possession but the game was fairly even for the first 20 minutes or so with AV gradually taking control and creating some good chances that almost led to a Panther goal on each occasion. However, in the 21st minute, a counter-attack down the left wing by the Wildcats led to some confusion in the AV defense and when the cross came in it was inadvertently deflected by a Panther defender just beyond the safe hands of ‘keeper Isaac Sanchez and into the path of the Calistoga forward who had a simple task of putting the ball into the empty goal from five yards out. Against the run of play it was 1-0 to Calistoga.

AV responded very well indeed and dominated the game for the next 15 minutes or so and should have equalized on three or four occasions. Several shots whizzed by close to the Calistoga goal but the visitors held on. Then in the 33rd minute, from a rare foray into the Panther half, the ball fell at the feet of a Wildcat player 25 yards out and well wide of the goal. He sent in an intended cross that caught the wind and the ball ended up sailing high into the far corner of the AV net. A fluke, but it gave Calistoga a 2-0 lead at the break, one that even the most fervent Wildcat fan would have been hard pressed to say was deserved on the balance of play.

AV played very well in the first half but, as so often happens in sports, you do not always get what your performance warrants and things got worse when the team was caught out early in the half and conceded a third goal. The Panthers’ heads dropped and frustration set in. This boiled over in the 59th minute when a Panther player was sent off for foul language and then acted disrespectfully to his team on the sideline. The Panthers were now down to ten players and several minutes later the situation was further exacerbated when another key player substituted himself out, and then left the playing area completely as incredulous fellow players, coaches, and the fans alike, all looked on. The actions of both of these players upon leaving the pitch will have been dealt with very firmly by the time you read this.

Fortunately, the Panther players who finished the game did so with admirable grit and determination and, while the game finished in a 3-0 defeat, they should be commended for their efforts and on the dignified way in which they handled the adverse situation.

The season moves on with two road games this week. First up, it’s a long journey all the way to Tomales today, Wednesday, October 7, before once more heading south on Friday evening for a match against Sonoma Academy. This match will be part of the unveiling of the host’s new floodlit facility that we here at AV High School can only dream about, and yet, with Sonoma Academy costing parents $38,700 for their child to attend each year perhaps it should not be surprising.

Current record (Wins/Losses/Draws): League: 6-2-0. Overall: 9-2-1.

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