Daily Pilot Cup: Tournament starts with fun

Midway through the second half of a Daily Pilot Cup soccer game, Jack Del Signore lined up for a penalty kick. The thoughts that danced in his head were familiar to that of many little footballers getting their kicks during the 15th annual six-day tournament that began Tuesday in Costa Mesa.

"I was thinking, I don't want to miss this," Del Signore said. "I was nervous. I thought, if I miss this it will all be on me."

He connected for the goal and led the Newport Heights boys' third- and fourth grade Gold Division team past Wilson, 2-1, at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex.

Del Signore sprinted toward midfield with his teammates who celebrated near him after he scored the goal. The celebration will most likely prove to be one of several scenes produced from the youth soccer tournament that features classmates as teammates from elementary schools in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach.

This year, the Pilot Cup is at its largest in participation with 205 teams, spread across Gold, Silver and Bronze Divisions in boys' and girls' competition for third- and fourth-graders, as well as fifth- and sixth-graders.

The young athletes are known to play all-out this week with the hopes of getting past pool play and into bracket play and eventually on to Championship Sunday. They fill up the fields at the main site, also known as the Farm, as well as, Costa Mesa High School and Davis Elementary.

A nearby church, Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, has been asking for a $5 donation for families to park in their lot. Finding a spot near the fields could prove difficult for many.

At the fields, a variety of bright colors can be seen from the children's T-Shirts. This year, 2,700 team T-shirts were ordered, as family, friends and school representatives also wanted to wear them to support their school.

Sara DeGrave, a fifth-grade teacher at Wilson, and Robin Testa, a sixth-grade teacher at Wilson, watched their team play Tuesday afternoon, as they encouraged the players while wearing their bright teal T-shirts.

They said they remain proud of the fact that the Wilson boys' fifth- and sixth-grade team won last year's Gold Division championship.

The school's third- and fourth-grade Gold Division team started strong against Newport Heights, as Esau Martinez gave Wilson a 1-0 lead in the first half.

Goalie Ivan Castro also stood out for Wilson, as he made some stellar saves in both halves. Marcos Negrete made a great save as he kicked the ball the way from the goal in the second half when Del Signore nearly scored after his penalty kick in the second half.

Del Signore's dad, Joe, the coach, gave his team some great advice during halftime.

"We're going downhill with the wind," Joe Del Signore told his players. "So let's get fired up! You guys ready? Let's go!"

Joe Del Signore said this is his third year coaching in the Pilot Cup and he said he knew to begin the game with his team trying to score against the wind in the first half.

"I figured if we scored or tied in the first half, it would only give us a greater chance to win in the second half," he said.

Luke Harner scored the equalizer for Newport Heights about three minutes into the second half. Later, Newport Heights was awarded a penalty kick after a Wilson field player was assessed a hand-ball violation because he caught the ball to stop a shot.

Jack Del Signore nailed it.

The Newport Heights players showed they had confidence even though they trailed at halftime. Their ability to rally just might help them to continue playing throughout the week.

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