Aztecs Band Together in a Winning Tribute
Sammer Mudauar had just scored with two minutes left in overtime, giving Esperanza a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over South Torrance in the championship game of the Marina tournament. But Mudauar didn’t want to talk about his goal or his team Wednesday. Mudauar could only think of his friend, Chad Bussarakons, who died two days earlier in a freak accident during a freshman-sophomore soccer tournament.
“We were remembering our buddy Chad,” said Mudauar, who along with his teammates wore black armbands that said “Chad, 10.” “It’s all for him. That’s what we play for now. He was a good guy. I’ll always remember him.”
Mudauar said he was there when Bussarakons, an Esperanza freshman, collided with an opponent and suffered a fatal spinal injury.
“It was the scariest thing in the world,” Mudauar said, fighting back tears. “It’s tragic. Having that in the back of your mind when you’re playing, that’s the toughest time I’ve ever had playing soccer.”
Darren Manska, who came out of a crowd to tap in goalkeeper Nate Fikse’s free kick only seconds before regulation ended, said he couldn’t keep his mind off Bussarakons.
“We tried not to let it affect us, but it did,” Manska said. “Coach [Kino Oaxaca] spoke to us before the game and told us we had to win it for Chad. We’re going to retire Chad’s number.”
Assistant coach Marc Rodieck accepted the championship trophy and announced it would be given to Bussarakons’ older brother, T.J., a freshman at San Diego State.
Esperanza (13-0-2) took a 1-0 lead on Matt McNally’s goal in the game’s second minute, but South Torrance (12-1-2) scored twice before the half and didn’t lose the lead until Mudauar’s goal.
McNally headed in Jon Kenny’s corner kick to give Esperanza a 3-2 lead eight minutes into the first 10-minute overtime period, but South Torrance’s Yusi Teranishi tied it six minutes later with a 15-yard blast that beat Fikse in the upper right corner.
With two minutes left in the second overtime, Mudauar mis-hit a deflected throw-in from Tysen Sybesma. The awkward shot fooled South Torrance goalkeeper Eddie Wenke and bounced past him in the far corner of the net.
“I have to give Esperanza a lot of credit for playing so hard under the circumstances,” South Torrance Coach Jeff Tuttle said. “We knew the situation and we felt like they had the 12th man today. When they scored so early, I thought we were in for a four-nil game. But they settled down and we started playing better.”
Manska said his teammates played hard, despite the nature of Bussarakons’ death.
“It’s the first death I’ve ever heard of in soccer,” Manska said. “You have to go on with life. There’s nothing else you can do.”