COSTA MESA — The Estancia High boys' soccer team is off to a slow start for the second straight season.
Coach Robert Castellano said this time it has to do more with competing against larger schools than the play of the Eagles. They played host to another big school Wednesday and the Eagles came out even.
Estancia tied Newport Harbor, 1-1, on a chilly evening. A large number of fans for both sides showed up for the nonleague match and they did not see any scoring after the first half.
The goals in the first half were worth the price of admission.
Caleb Candelaria recorded the first goal midway through the half for Newport Harbor (1-4-2). The midfielder dribbled up the backline, toward goalkeeper Edgar Vega before blasting a short-ranged shot. Vega knocked the shot down, but the rebound found the feet of Candelaria, who put it away.
Vega did his best before the half to help Estancia (1-3-2) tie the match.
From his own area, Vega delivered a precise long pass to Oscar Barannon. After a couple of bounces, Barannon took possession and broke free.
Before the head official blew his whistle to signal the end of 40 minutes of action, Barannon unleashed a shot that found the back of the net. Barannon raced toward the Estancia sideline and celebrated with teammates.
Barannon did not need to return to the field because it was halftime. While the Eagles jogged off the field and into a building to stay warm and prepare for the second half, Castellano made his way toward midfield to talk to the head official.
"I was telling him to just give us a chance, 'Let me calm my players down,'" said Castellano, a second-year head coach, who saw the official hand three yellow cards out to his players in the first 20 minutes of the match. "He was kind of card-happy."
At the end, the Eagles were happy to come away with at least a tie. One player yelled that they were going to In-N-Out Burger afterward.
Someone had to pick up the tab for Vega, who made a handful of saves, and Barannon, who registered his first goal of the season. The two made it possible for Estancia to avoid a second straight loss.
Castellano expected to rely on Vega a lot this season. He is a senior leader and very vocal.
As for Barannon, the senior has come a long way after missing last season.
"He came out and tried out last year and I had to cut him because he never came [out] in the spring. He actually didn't know about [the offseason]," Castellano said. "From getting cut last year to being on the varsity team, that's pretty nice."
Castellano is happy to have a scoring threat like Barannon in the lineup because scoring has been an issue at Estancia this season.
The Eagles have only seven goals in six matches. Playing the likes of Corona del Mar, ranked No. 11 in the nation by ESPN Rise, and Capistrano Valley, ranked No. 1 in the CIF Southern Section Division II coaches' poll, is not going to help a team's goal production.
The stiff competition continues for Estancia this weekend. The Eagles are in the North Orange County Classic. They open with La Habra, ranked No. 5 in Division II, at Valencia High on Saturday at 9:30 a.m.
"I think we're better than last year. We're more mature," said Castellano, whose Eagles last season snapped out of their early struggles and went on a major run, winning the Orange Coast League title and advancing to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs. "Our schedule is a little bit tougher than last year. It's definitely making us a better team playing these tough teams."