Daily Pilot Cup: Rea on cloud nine

COSTA MESA — When three o’clock rolled around in the afternoon on Sunday, it finally hit Ryan Baker that he forgot to eat. Someone tried to grab Baker a hot dog a couple hours earlier at the Costa Mesa Farm Complex, but the hot dogs ran out.

Baker told people he was starving. His Rea Elementary School boys’ soccer team looked just as hungry.

The Sharks chewed up Wilson.

Rea easily beat Wilson, 8-0, and earned its ninth fifth- and sixth-grade Daily Pilot Cup gold division title in the last 10 years. The reward, beside a fourth straight crown, was a slice of more than history to the coach.

“Now, we’re going to be off for pizza,” said Baker, who deserved a pizza all to himself.

The goal at Rea is to win every time out. The only time that hasn’t happened this decade was in 2006.

Baker expected to prevail, not in the form Rea displayed for 60 minutes. The Sharks turned in a dominating performance on the offensive and defensive ends.

Pablo Arriaga recorded a game-high three goals. Luis Perdomo scored twice, and Brandon Varela, Brandon Rodriguez and Ricardo Vargas each scored once.

The defense, anchored by goalkeeper Victor Negrete and Varela at sweeper, shut down Wilson. No other team during the six-day tournament had blanked Wilson.

During the pre-game talk, Baker told his players the keys to the match.

“In the first five minutes, we need two goals to put them away,” said Baker, whose team in each of the previous four games scored once in the first five minutes, but never twice. “Most teams, they play their best game against Rea. If we come out and get two goals, obviously the team is demoralized. If we let them stay in the game, they start gaining confidence, and they think they have a chance to win.”

Rea never gave Wilson a chance. Wilson didn’t give itself one either.

Wilson Coach Tony Robles said his players were a little intimidated by Rea’s decorated program. The pressure stage was set before the match.

The teams lined up in the middle of the field, giving the match a World Cup feel to it.
Arriaga delivered the world-class goal in the second minute. Arriaga scored with a shot that found the upper-right corner of the net.

Arriaga scored again. This time, he used his head after Raymundo Davila, from the right side, sent a cross deep in the box in the 19th minute.

The Sharks fell way short of the two-goals-in-the-first-five-minutes objective. They weren’t falling short of the ultimate prize.

Rea took a 4-0 lead at halftime. In the first half, the defense prevented Wilson from getting any shots on goal.

Wilson went into the final with its offense clicking. Salvador Escalante and Andy Ceja scored two goals apiece in Wilson’s 4-2 semifinal victory against Andersen in the morning.

Rea’s 5-1 semifinal win against Mariners not only gave the Costa Mesa school another chance at the championship, but Baker bragging rights at home.

“My wife works at Mariners [as a first-grade teacher] and I don’t want to lose to my wife’s [school],” said Baker, whose better half, Ann Marie, missed the match.

Baker said Ann Marie was at home with their 2-year-old twin boys, Landon and Hayden. Ann Marie didn’t miss much as Rea slowed down Mariners’ duo of Travis and Dylan Campos.

Wilson didn’t fare much better. Defenders Javier Ramirez, Luis Herrera and Carlos Perez also helped thwart Wilson’s offense.

Perdomo and Kelvin Alcantara controlled the midfield. With the game out of reach, Baker told Perdomo he was moving him to defense.

“No,” Perdomo told Baker. “I’ll play goalie.”

Baker granted Perdomo’s demand. With 10 minutes left, Baker made the move because he trusts Perdomo.

“Luis Perdomo is probably one of the best players, if not the best, to ever play at Rea,” Baker said. “There’s not a soccer player smarter out there that I’ve seen at his age. A lot of these kids have the skills, but they don’t have the knowledge. He has the knowledge. I don’t have to talk to him too much.”

One player Baker chatted with a lot was Vargas.

Since fourth grade, Baker has attempted to talk Vargas into trying out for one of Rea’s Pilot Cup teams. One year, he even gave Vargas a chance to come out after tryouts.

“He said he was going to come and he never showed up,” Baker said. “The day before [this year’s tryouts], he said, ‘I’m still on the fence.’ I don’t really know why [he was]. Maybe he was just shy.”

Vargas broke out of his shell in a major way.
The first-year player led Rea with nine goals in the five games. The total is surprising considering Vargas’ favorite sport is basketball.

Schoolmates have seen him score at will on the court. Some Rea players were unsure of Vargas’ ability to score with his feet.

“When he started making goals” that changed, Negrete said.

There might be a changing of the guard next season in the gold division. Only Bryant Reyes, a fifth-grader, will return. The rest are sixth-graders.

Baker said Rea, which had 80 boys try out for its five fifth- and sixth-grade teams, would have less of a talent pool to pick from to form a gold division team.

“It’s going to be tough,” said Baker of repeating because Rea will only have one fifth- and sixth-grade class next year due to the school’s enrollment numbers dropping. “We’re still going to come out and we’re going to play in the gold division. We’ll be back."

The Sharks are hungry for their 10th title.
“All we’re missing is the [championship ring] for our thumb,” Baker said.

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