Tiger boys are 4-0 in district after pair of victories

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This week, the Los Lunas High boys soccer team officially moved into the driver’s seat in District 6-4A.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Los Lunas senior Dylan Archibeque, left, keeps the ball away from a Grants player in Thursday’s match. The Tigers beat Miyamura 2-0 in Gallup on Tuesday and Grants 4-1 at LLHS on Thursday to improve to 4-0 in District 6-4A. They’re set to host Valencia at 11 a.m. Saturday and Belen High at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

If the Tigers want to hang onto the seat, they’ll have to keep it rolling against their two closest rivals. Coming off wins this week over Miyamura and Grants, the Tigers are set to host Valencia High at 11 a.m. Saturday and Belen at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

The 2-0 win over a talented and improved Miyamura team came Tuesday on the artificial turf of Gallup Municipal Stadium. Thursday, the Tigers exploited their size and speed advantage over Grants in a 4-1 win at LLHS.

“Miyamura likes to rely on the long ball,” LLHS coach Eliseo Aguirre said regarding Tuesday’s match. “And Tuesday, it wasn’t working for them.”

Aguirre has been placing emphasis lately on a controlled, possession game — something the Tigers needed Tuesday on the bouncy artificial turf in Gallup. The Tigers got a goal from Alejandro Garcia in the fourth minute and Martin Saenz about three minutes later, and that would be all the scoring in the match. Miyamura (8-3, 3-1) only put two shots on goal against Tiger goalkeeper Dylan Romero, and the Tigers put 12 shots up against the Patriots’ Jared Payton. Aguirre said Payton has improved, and that he made some spectacular plays Tuesday to keep the match close.

Thursday, Los Lunas controlled the tempo against Grants (6-5, 2-2) from start to finish. The Tigers possessed the ball, made drop-passes to defenders, and generally shared the ball well.

Said Aguilera scored on a header only four minutes into the match, with Jesus Villa assisting.

Six minutes later, Garcia scored on a play in which a goal kick from Romero was bounced around until Garcia ended up with the ball. He muscled past a couple of defenders to score, and now has more than 20 goals this season.

Garcia, only a sophomore, assisted on a goal in the 19th minute that put LLHS up 3-0. He passed in to Aguilera, who was standing near the Grants goal, and he scored without the Pirate defenders making much effort to stop him.

The Pirates’ only goal came just before halftime. A Grants player was fouled in the penalty box on a questionable play, and the Pirates’ Ben Sarracino beat Romero on the penalty kick to make it 3-1.

Los Lunas completely controlled the second half, with Aguilera and Garcia just missing on several opportunities. The Tigers’ lone goal of the second half happened when Pirate goalkeeper John Malcolm got caught too far out, and Aurilio Ruiz of LLHS chipped the ball over Malcolm’s reach from near midfield, and into the goal.

Tiger senior Gustavo Muñoz knows Saturday’s match could be intense. Valencia, the Tigers’ crosstown rival, is coming off a 3-2 win Tuesday over Belen in which the Jaguars played one man short for 45 minutes.

“They’ll be coming in with confidence,” said Muñoz. “We really have to play our game.”

The two teams split in each of the past two seasons. Despite the Tigers’ apparent progress in playing more of possession offense, Muñoz feels his team can do much more in that area.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said. “We were really sucking at that, at first, but now guys know their assignments more. We’ll get better.”


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