Estancia boys’ soccer falls to Santa Ana in battle for first in Orange Coast League

Estancia's Kevin Arevalo, left, and John Uchytil leave the field following a 3-1 loss to Santa Ana.
Estancia’s Kevin Arevalo, left, and John Uchytil leave the field following a 3-1 loss to Santa Ana in an Orange Coast League boys’ soccer match at Estancia High on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

A palpable intensity could be seen from the start of Friday’s match, a playoff-like atmosphere manifesting itself from what was on the line.

In the first meeting between the Estancia High School and Santa Ana boys’ soccer teams, if there were to be a winner, that side would be all alone in first place nearly halfway through the Orange Coast League schedule.

Three goals in a six-minute span at the end of the first half were enough to accomplish that for the visiting Saints, who downed the Eagles 3-1 at Jim Scott Stadium in Costa Mesa.

Brian Mendez-Maravilla had a goal and an assist for Santa Ana (7-3-5, 3-0-1, 10 points), which leapfrogged Estancia (3-10-1, 3-1-0, nine points) for the top spot in league through four matches.

Estancia's David Lopez and Santa Ana's Damian Hernandez go up for a header on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

“To keep our position and move up was very important,” Santa Ana coach Joe Peñaflor said. “You know how the points swing, if we don’t get the win, we’re in a big hole. That would have been basically a game and a half, and that’s kind of hard to make up in league. You’ve only got six games left.”

All of the scoring came in the final seven minutes of the first half. Mendez-Maravilla served up a cross from distance off the left end, and Alejandro Garcia was able to stick a foot out and redirect the pass into the net for the opening marker in the 33rd minute.

“It was great,” Mendez-Maravilla said of Garcia’s finish. “I got kind of scared because it looked like it was going to go out, but surprisingly, it went in.”

Estancia knotted the score at 1-1 a minute later, as Felix Solis was on the doorstep when the ball fell to his feet in front of the Saints’ goal.

Estancia's Felix Solis gestures to the sideline after scoring the Eagles' only goal against Santa Ana on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Oswaldo Becerra’s header retook the lead for Santa Ana in the 37th minute, and after a foul was called against the Eagles in the box two minutes later, Mendez-Maravilla stepped up to the spot and scored the penalty kick.

Estancia was the aggressor coming out of the half, but with Santa Ana defending its two-goal advantage, passes seldomly connected deep in the Saints’ end of the pitch.

The Eagles did have a great chance to pull within one goal in the 59th minute. David Lopez turned and shot the ball off the right post. Seemingly in position to put away the carom, Kevin Flores was stopped at close range by Randy Guerrero (two saves), who left no rebound.

On the other end, Estancia goalkeeper Cesar Pedroza was quite active in keeping the game within striking distance. He made three of his seven saves in the second half, and he came off his line for a number of catches and punching clearances. Pedroza was also an asset in moving the ball up the field with his powerful goal kicks.

Estancia's Felix Solis and Santa Ana's Mateo Moreno battle for a ball on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Pedroza said that there have been some alumni visits that have helped uplift the team, including from Sergio Gutierrez, the Daily Pilot Dream Team Player of the Year in 2018. The Eagles goalkeeper added that playing with passion could be a key to coming out on top against the Saints in the rematch.

“It’s a fresh start,” Pedroza said. “We can win the next round if we just put our hearts into it, play with the heart that we played the second half.”

The Eagles were coming off a strong effort against Saddleback to get a 1-0 road win on Wednesday. Saddleback (8-3-3, 1-1-1, four points) and Santa Ana tied in their first meeting of league play, keeping Estancia in the mix for the league title.

After an 0-9-1 start to the season in nonleague play, Estancia has looked like a different team in league.

“I always believed in my team,” Estancia coach Robert Castellano said. “We had a really, really tough schedule, played a bunch of Division 1 schools. We took our lickings, but you can only go down for so much before somebody makes a decision where they don’t want … to get [beat] anymore. The boys finally made a decision and league started, and that [league opener] against Orange really boosted our confidence.”

Santa Ana's Alejandro Garcia places a ball over the outstretched hands of Estancia's Cesar Pedroza for a goal on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Support our sports coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.

For more sports stories, visit or follow us on Twitter @DailyPilotSport.