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ATHLETE OF THE WEEK : One Tough Cookie : Fast-Rising Zapata Helped Agoura Capture Tournament

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Dominic Zapata’s teammates call him Biscuit.

An unusual nickname, especially because no one--including Zapata, a junior striker on the Agoura High soccer team--seems to know exactly who cooked up the moniker or why Zapata, slightly built at 5 feet, 8 inches and 135 pounds, is named after a glob of dough.

“It just came up one day and kinda stuck,” Zapata said.

You might say the label just popped up--kind of a Pop ‘n’ Fresh label.

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“I don’t know why they call him that,” Coach Bart Morefield said. “I asked, ‘Why do you guys call him Biscuit?’ and they all said, ‘I don’t know, coach.’ ”

Said senior midfielder and co-captain Tim Ward: “I don’t know how it started. One day last year someone said it and we laughed at it and started calling him that. It just kind of stuck. There’s really no point behind it. Everyone asks that, but it’s really hard to explain. When I think of Biscuit, I think of Dominic.”

Zapata, who leads Agoura with 9 goals and 3 assists this season, offers loose reasoning for the nickname. “It goes back to my ninth-grade year,” he said. “Probably because I was the youngest guy.”

Last season, Zapata still was the youngest of his crowd as the only sophomore on the Agoura varsity.

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But if there is a reason for dubbing him Biscuit, consider Zapata’s recent ability to rise to the occasion and pop the ball into the net for an instant lead.

Last week, Zapata was named most valuable player of the Simi Valley tournament, a wet and rainy weeklong event that did little to bog down Biscuit. He scored 5 goals and recorded 2 assists to lead the Chargers to the tournament championship.

In 4 of the 5 Agoura wins, Zapata scored the game’s first goal. Three times it came early in the first half. Three times it was the only goal Agoura needed.

“Our team needs to score real quick to get that intensity up,” Zapata said. “For some reason, we don’t get all fired up unless we score early. By me scoring real quick, that gets the team fired up. That’s my first objective.

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“It’s kind of hard being a leader as a junior. I’d like to take charge of it, but I’d like the guys to put me in charge.”

On Wednesday, Zapata slid across the field before the game was a minute old and banged in the first goal in the Chargers’ 3-2 championship win over Fresno Edison.

“Gee, that one was really quick,” Zapata said. “It was a cross (pass) from one of my teammates right in front of the mouth of the goal. I just trapped it and fired it right past the goalie.”

In Agoura’s 1-0 second-round win over Fountain Valley, Zapata scored the game’s only goal--a 20-foot rocket in the second half that surprised 2 defenders, the goalkeeper, Morefield and even Zapata.

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“I faked two guys out, dribbled it around and it went right into the net,” Zapata said. “The goalie just stood there. It was beautiful.”

Led by Zapata, the Chargers (9-2-1) stand a good chance of capturing their third Southern Section championship in the past 4 years.

Agoura won 1-A Division titles in 1986 and ’87 before losing last year to eventual champion Santa Paula in the semifinals.

“We have a good shot of going real far with Dominic at inside striker,” Morefield said. “It’s going to take a real good team to beat us.”

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