Late West Mesa goal costs Jaguar boys

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Going into district play with momentum would have been nice, but the Valencia High boys soccer team will have to settle for being battle-tested.

The Jaguars are 3-3 after Tuesday's 1-0 road loss to West Mesa — and five of Valencia's matches were decided by either one or two goals. The Jags are set to play their District 6-4A opener at 1 p.m. Saturday on the road against Gallup, after the girls match is completed.

There were only about 10 combined shots on goal in Tuesday's match, played on the small, artificial turf field of the APS Soccer Complex. Valencia goalkeeper Jose Gonzalez stopped all shots but one — a hard putback by James Rodriguez of the Mustangs (3-5) in the 71st minute.

Jaguar coach Erik Gutierrez described the odd turn of events that led to the only goal of the match.

"(A player) was charging from their half, and Diego (Ramirez) managed to stop the player right around our 40 yard line," said Gutierrez. "When he crashed into him to take the ball away, the player falls and cups the ball between his legs, and flings the ball towards our 18(-yard) line."

A Mustang player got to the ball first, and Jaguar defenders managed to block a couple of shots before Rodriguez was able to score.

"On the second rebound, we were no longer lucky," said Gutierrez. "He (Rodriguez) shot it from the top of our right side of our 18-yard box, scoring on Jose Gonzalez's right top corner."

The Class 5A Mustangs made the lead hold up, keeping 4A Valencia from scoring in the last nine minutes.

Valencia has won three consecutive matches against Gallup. After Saturday's district opener, 6-4A play is set to continue Tuesday, when the Jags are set to return to Gallup to face Miyamura in a 4 p.m. match.

The Jags are scheduled to host a non-district match against Del Norte at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. They're set to play a 6-A match at Grants on Saturday, Sept. 29.


-- Email the author at jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.