Boys' Soccer: Mesa takes bell after draw

COSTA MESA — One team was missing its top senior striker due to a one-game suspension.

The other team has had trouble scoring goals all season.

While a scoreless tie in Wednesday's second Battle for the Bell boys' soccer game might have been predictable, neither Costa Mesa nor Estancia left Jim Scott Stadium feeling particularly thrilled.

The Mustangs won the bell for the second time in three years, by virtue of their 1-0 victory over Estancia in the Orange Coast League opener Jan. 9. But they stayed behind the Eagles in league with just three matches to play.

Godinez (5-1-1 in league) is in first place. Saddleback, the defending champion, moved into second place by itself after beating Laguna Beach, 4-0, on Wednesday. Saddleback (4-2-1 in league) has 13 points, two more than third-place Estancia (8-5-5, 3-2-2 in league).

Teams earn three points for a win and one for a tie. Costa Mesa (3-4-4, 2-1-4 in league) is alone in fourth place with 10 points. Only the top three teams in league are guaranteed spots into the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs.

"To get in, I think we have it the toughest," first-year Costa Mesa Coach Amos Hernandez said. "We have to win two of our last three games. But to be in this position, considering where we were at the beginning of the year, if you would have asked me I would have taken it in a heartbeat. It keeps the kids engaged, it keeps them motivated and with something to look forward to."

Hernandez still said you could consider Wednesday's result a win for the Mustangs. They were without senior captain Franco Ramirez, who scored the goal in the teams' first meeting. He was serving the one-game suspension after getting a red card last week. Hernandez said three other starters, including Franco's younger brother Omar (back), were also hurting.

"They played, but it was very limited," Hernandez said. "We had three players play today who hadn't seen the field all year. When you're missing four key players, including your captain, a tie almost feels like a victory for us."

Estancia Coach Robert Castellano saw his team dominate the scoring chances, just like in the teams' first meeting. But the Eagles never got on the scoreboard. Credit Costa Mesa senior defender Oscar Dorantes, who served as captain in Franco Ramirez's absence, and goalkeeper Brandon Menez (three saves).

Estancia's best chance came in the 73rd minute, when a straightaway shot from 30 yards out by senior Alex Esquivel clanged off the crossbar. The Eagles also nearly scored at the end, when senior Cristian Gomez put a through ball at the feet of Abraham Cortez in the box. But Costa Mesa defender Julio Sanchez was there to clear the ball out of danger.

"In the first game [the Mustangs] came out with more energy, they won some more balls," Castellano said. "I think the second game, not to take anything away from Mesa, I think we dominated all over the pitch. Except where it matters most, which is the scoreboard. We didn't score any goals, which is most important. We were hungry for that goal, just a bit unlucky today."

Estancia plays at Saddleback on Friday at 3 p.m. in a key league game. Costa Mesa plays host to last-place Calvary Chapel at Jim Scott Stadium at 5 p.m.

"Saddleback's going to be tough, but we're definitely hungry since the last game when they beat us," Castellano said. "We've got a little rivalry against them."

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