Heading into its senior day game it was just two wins away from a 3A Region 1 championship.
Not five minutes had passed against Anthem Preparatory Academy on Wednesday, Jan. 24, and the Sedona Red Rock High School boys soccer team [6-3, 3-0 3A Region 1] had effectively wrapped up the first win. By the final whistle it scored five while going relatively unchallenged defensively, giving up none.
“It’s one of those agitated games because it’s going back-and-forth. We constantly had to reinforce to the players that we played a good team, too, but we didn’t let it swell up on us,” Scorpions head coach Daniel Valenzuela said. “I thought that a lot of the seniors gave their soul and their heart there.”
Seven seniors were honored at halftime: Alan Ruvalcaba, Brian Burke, Justin Wassell, Julian Travaglia, Guilherme Garcia, Nathan Hoyer and Sasha Conway. The group went out on top at home in resounding fashion, but whether or not they will end their Scorpion careers as region champions was unknown at press time.
The team traveled to North Pointe Preparatory Academy [2-8, 2-1] on Thursday, Jan. 25, where the outcome of the game determines the champion. With a region championship comes a guaranteed spot in the state tournament, but not a home game. The brackets will be released on Friday, Jan. 26, at azpreps365.com.
“It was awesome playing with them. I love this team, they’re all there for each other, so to play on my senior night with these guys was probably the best feeling in the world,” Wassell said. “The score says a lot but just also how we connected and we all played, great ball movement, great everything. It was awesome.
“I’m probably going to miss all of the late night practices, freezing with them. It sounds horrible but it really just brings us all together we all come through with the ups and downs and I’m going to miss playing with these guys.”
Sophomore midfielder Clark Borjon took advantage of the Eagles’ [1-10, 1-3] extremely high defensive line, scoring twice in two minutes during the opening stretch. The second goal on a simple dispossession in midfield, and Wassell fed Borjon the ball past the Anthem Prep defense.
Throughout the entire game the visitors’ defense made its way to nearly the halfway line, allowing an appetizing amount of space in behind, and was not quick enough to catch the Scorpions on their well-timed runs.
“That’s something you don’t usually get falling from the sky for you, but when you do you snag it and you take it and you go with it and you make some chances,” Valenzuela said.
Borjon finished off his first-half hat trick in the 29th minute, taking an assist from sophomore midfielder Michael Lagorio.
Three minutes later junior left back Trevor Stovall got on the end of a cross through the six-yard box at the far post to smash home the fourth. The score remained 4-0 at halftime, but the advantage could have been greater.
Lagorio finished off the scoring from the edge of the 18-yard box in the second half to round out the scoring, although the Scorpions did create a number of opportunities.
Anthem Prep’s best chances came when senior midfielder Izaak Barrett wrong-footed the Red Rock junior goalkeeper Alberto Pina in the first half, but the ball sailed over. A free kick from senior midfielder Michael DePiazza struck the crossbar in the 56th minute, but that was the closest they got.
“It’s also a part of how we’ve been reinforcing to them, each one of the players depending on their position, what their job is and if they are struggling then we’ll substitute someone else in,” said Valenzuela of his defense, adding that he would play with five defenders against North Pointe Prep.
Quote of the Game
“I’m really glad that we won, I’m really glad that we all came together, I’m really glad that we finally had a crowd to support us. It’s just really great having a team that you just connect with and you can depend on and this is the team I want to end the season with because we all have each other’s backs,” Burke said. “We’ve gone to state every year I’ve been here. We always lost in the first round, but going out with a region championship would be pretty cool.”
Stat of the Game
After giving up 17 goals in three games to open the new year, the shutout marked the first all season for the Scorpions defense.