Twenty-seven days after its last game, Sedona Red Rock High School’s boys soccer team returned to action, splitting its pair of games with a resounding 25 goals in total between them.
The Scorpions [3-3, 1-0 3A Region 1] gave up 14 goals between the two games, beginning with an 8-1 home loss to Tonopah Valley High School on Tuesday, Jan. 9, in which three key players were missing. On the road the following day, they allowed six more against Wickenburg High School, but put eight past the Wranglers to secure the win.
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The difference between the games, in head coach Daniel Valenzuela’s opinion, appeared to be a mental one.
“The psychological factor, knowing that those players were coming back,” Valenzuela said. “....What made them change their mind was that we as a coaching staff didn’t pressure them after the loss on Tuesday.”
The goalfest between Red Rock and Wickenburg on Jan. 13 saw the Scorpions lead from start to finish, scoring five first-half goals. It was a similar state of affairs when the teams met the first time on Dec. 13 in Sedona, with Red Rock walking away 6-1 winners.
In the rematch Red Rock sophomore midfielder Clark Borjon opened the scoring just four minutes in. Scorpions sophomore forward Ben Philo made it 2-1 in the 15th minute, and senior midfielder Justin Wassell converted a penalty kick to make it 3-1 10 minutes later.
Borjon scored the fourth 29 minutes in, and senior Sasha Conway scored his first goal of the year on a penalty kick to make it 5-1 at halftime. In the second half Borjon secured his second hat trick against the Wranglers in as many games before senior center back Julian Travaglia and senior midfielder Guilherme Garcia, a Brazilian exchange student, netted his first of the season to round out the scoring.
Valenzuela was happiest about Conway and Garcia’s goals. The rest of the team celebrated them with elation, demonstrating a quality beyond technique and tactics.
“The whole group put a stamp of approval on players who are coming up,” said Valenzuela in reference to the seniors. “I felt very pleased they were empowering other players, and it’s not something that I told them to do, they did it on their own.”
In their first game of the season on Nov. 28, the Scorpions lost 2-1 at Tonopah Valley. At home on Jan. 9, Red Rock went down 2-0 within the first 10 minutes. Three minutes in a free kick from the right side was played across the 18-yard box, the ball meeting Phoenix freshman midfielder Francisco Gallardo, whose one-time strike dribbled in at the near post.
“It’s kind of a mystery, [the second Tonopah Valley loss] reminds me of the first game of the season, where there was a similar decomposition of purpose in our formation,” Valenzuela said. “It kind of broke down and it seemed easier for the other team.”
Three minutes after that, the Phoenix struck again. Tonopah Valley sophomore midfielder Enrique Pereda made his way to the goal line on the right flank before sending the ball back above the penalty box. It was there that Phoenix junior midfielder Sergio Pelagio too hit the ball first time, curling it off the left post and in.
Red Rock sophomore Michael Lagorio had the team’s lone goal. Borjon, senior right back Trevor Stovall and senior defender Nate Schultz did not play.
Giving up 14 goals in two games is a problem to be fixed as the team returns to 3A Region 1 play at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 17, at home against Veritas Preparatory Academy. Three pieces of the defense have been solid throughout; the left back position remains up in the air.
Filling in that position as well as filling the team with confidence heading into the final four games of the regular season, three of which are in the region, will be key.
“For them to be confident and relaxed when going to face these games,” Valenzuela said.