Ever so quietly, Estancia forward Esaul Mendoza is having one of the greatest goal-scoring seasons in the history of Orange County high school soccer. Most of the talk has centered on the accomplishments of Irvine’s Matt Taylor, Fountain Valley’s Cliff McKinley and El Dorado’s Ignacio Cid, but don’t overlook Mendoza, who has scored 42 goals, more than Taylor (37), McKinley (27) or Cid (35).
Mendoza, who has produced eight goals in Estancia’s three playoff victories, is only 10 short of Albert Mendoza’s county single-season record, set by the Santiago forward in 1996.
The record seems unattainable, since Estancia could play only two more games in the Division IV playoffs, but then again, Mendoza has two five-goal games this season.
“He’s capable of it,” Estancia Coach Steve Crenshaw said. “I may just turn him loose and let him go for it.”
Estancia’s playoff games have been so lopsided that Mendoza often doesn’t play the entire game. The Eagles beat Covina Northview, 8-0; Orange Lutheran, 5-2, and Santa Ynez, 7-0, in the first three rounds. Today, second-seeded Estancia (18-1-1) hosts third-seeded La Canada St. Francis (27-3).
Crenshaw hopes people start to take Mendoza and his team seriously. Mendoza, who has average grades and plays club soccer for the Mission Viejo Pateadores, is not being recruited by any Division I colleges.
“Several people have looked at him, but there’s been no big bites,” Crenshaw said. “He’s slight, but pound for pound he’s one of the best players around. Sometimes, he just plays with people. He’s got every trick in the book.”
Estancia’s other high-scoring forward, Cesar Terrones, has a few tricks too. Terrones has scored 31 times this season and is nearing 100 over his four-year career.
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
Sixth-ranked Estancia is one of seven teams ranked in the final county poll that are left in the playoffs. In Division I, 10th-ranked Esperanza visits second-ranked Fountain Valley.
In Division II, Riverside Poly visits third-ranked Mater Dei and seventh-ranked El Dorado travels to fifth-ranked Edison. In Division III, top-ranked Santa Margarita hosts Calabasas.
In Division V, unranked St. Margaret’s hosts Lebec Frazier Mountain.
CHANGE OF VENUE
For the first time in more than a decade, teams that win their semifinal games will not be playing the championship at Cerritos Gahr High. The Southern Section has moved the title games to Cal State Fullerton and La Mirada High.
Maybe no one is happier about the switch than Santa Margarita Coach Curt Bauer, whose teams have had to navigate their way through five section title games on the pothole-filled football field at Gahr.
“I thank Karen Hellyer [section assistant commissioner] for doing that,” said Bauer, whose teams are 4-0-1 at Gahr. “It’s about time they got the soccer finals off a football field. They put football and baseball [title games] at Edison Field and basketball at the Pond. It shows they do care about soccer.”
If Santa Margarita beats Calabasas and advances to the Division III title game, Bauer, who played college soccer at Cal State Fullerton, would prefer Fullerton as the venue. But he said anything is better than Gahr’s field, which sits about 100 yards from the section office.