Eagles' family affair ends in CIF

Rick Devereux

The grey clouds mimicked the gloomy faces of the Estancia High boys

soccer team after the Eagles lost, 3-1, to host Sonora Saturday in

the opening round of the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs.

"I feel sorry for the seniors," Coach Gannon Burks said. "They

will never play with this group of players again. We became a

family."

The muddy conditions made passing tricky as the ball would

suddenly stop in a puddle causing players to skid in an attempt to

change directions for the loose ball.

"You can't play touch ball in these conditions," Sonora Coach Cory

Witt said. "You've got to go with the long ball."

Estancia used the long ball effectively to open the game, pushing

the play to the Raiders' half of the pitch. The offensive attack

resulted in a free kick, which senior Geo Macias sent into the

bottom-left corner in the sixth minute for a 1-0 lead.

"I talked to the team all week about opening up strong," Burks

said. "I wanted us to really be aggressive in the first five to 10

minutes of the game."

It looked as if the Eagles would remain on top headed into

halftime, but Sonora's Ulises Gonzalez scored off a throw in with

seconds left in the half. An Estancia defender slipped in the mud,

creating an open shooting lane for Gonzalez, who placed the ball into

the bottom-left corner.

"[Being tied at halftime] was huge for us," Wit said. "We were

carrying momentum into the second half."

Carlo Ruiz gave Sonora the lead two minutes into the second half

when he was able to streak down the middle of the field and fire

uncontested on the goal.

Sonora remained on the attack for most of the second half.

Goalkeeper Marco Burciagag was forced to make a diving save on a

header in the ninth minute and another save on a corner kick about

two minutes later.

Sonora's David Diaz put the game away with a header off a free

kick in the 70th minute. The field conditions forced the Raiders to

switch their strategy on set plays.

"I told them to start floating the ball into the box," Witt said.

"We had to use our size and our strength to our advantage, especially

when it is as muddy as it is."

The loss may have been hard to bear for the Eagles, as many left

the pitch with tears in their eyes, but the playoff appearance is an

accomplishment for a team under new direction.

"Our ultimate goal was to win," said Burks, who led Estancia to a

9-9-3 record in his first year. "I'm very happy with how we played

and the effort we showed."

It was the first playoff game for the program since the Division

VI championship team of 1999-2000, but it hopefully will not be the

last.

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