Canyon boys soccer scores early to beat West Ranch

Canyon senior Tito Gonzalez races up the field in a Foothill League game against West Ranch at West Ranch High School Friday afternoon. Cory Rubin/ The Signal

Entering the game in fifth place in the Foothill League standings, West Ranch boys soccer had some ground to make up as they welcomed Canyon onto their home field on Friday.

Applying pressure to begin the game, the Wildcats looked focused and determined to win a second straight Foothill League game.

Unfortunately, West Ranch couldn’t hold on to that intensity for the full 80 minutes of play, falling to Canyon 2-1.

Canyon (5-8-4 overall, 3-1-2 in Foothill League) struck first. Fifteen minutes into the game, Harrison Davis collected a ball in Wildcats territory and took it down the right flank, then back passed it Tito Gonzalez. He crossed the ball into the middle of the pitch where Edward Quijano came rushing from the back line to tap in the game’s first goal.

“It was a big day for me personally because I recently lost my grandma and today would have been her 76th birthday, so I came out with a goal and it was to put my team up and I did just that,” Quijano said.

“When I saw the ball get switched to the weak side I told my left wing I was making the run and when I saw the ball crossing I put my body on the line and came through with the goal.”

Five minutes later, West Ranch’s Carlos Gutierrez tried a bicycle five yards out from Canyon’s goal, but his shot went high.

Working off each other, Canyon’s Drew Leskin along with Davis, Gonzalez and Quijano presented a united front, taking turns at making runs trying to find open spaces to create scoring opportunities.

With 16 minutes remaining in the first half, their persistence paid off as Gonzalez was able to corral a pass just inside the 18-yard box. With finesse and a special touch, Gonzalez was able to shrug off a Wildcats defender and chip a ball across the goal and over West Ranch goalkeeper Ethan Bolita’s hands.

“Tito has been so dynamic for us up top and at times I’ve had to use him in the back because of injuries and never once has he said ‘no coach,’” said Canyon head coach Robert Benavidez. “He’s just a special talent.”

Down 2-0, West Ranch (3-6-2, 1-4-1) was able to elevate their attacking and scoring opportunities towards the end of the first half and into the second, thanks to the motivated play by Jacob Gendein, Ryan Verbeck, Niko Marquez and Owen Strunck.

Carrying the intensity over from the end of the first half, West Ranch was able to get a goal back 12 minutes into the second half on a set piece header by Anthony Lambrinidis who leaped amongst a heap of Canyon defenders and made contact with his head for Wildcats’ first goal.

“The second half was better because the energy and discipline was there,” said West Ranch head coach Louis Mogrovejo. “We were pressing as a unit, the attacking was a lot faster and a lot more dangerous. We just dominated most of the second half, but climbing back down 2-0 is not easy.”

Welcoming back defender Samuel Roque back from injury, Canyon was able to withstand run after run and opportunity and after opportunity that West Ranch presented to negate the comeback and secure the win.

“It’s great to get a victory on the road especially in this league,” Benavidez said. “We have four games left and we have to take each game one game at a time and train to get into the right mindset so that we can perform at a high level and stay competitive.”

Both schools pick league play back up on Tuesday with Canyon traveling to Golden Valley and West Ranch playing at Saugus. Both games begin at 3:15 p.m.

“Anything can happen in the season. We still have games to play and we are going to do our best to win every game,” Mogrovejo said. “Right now we are struggling for a spot in playoffs and whether we get in or not depends on us and how we do. You never want to leave your fate in any other teams but at this point you never know what could happen.”

Hart 2, Golden Valley 1

Hart completed a 2-1 come-from-behind win against Golden Valley, scoring two goals in the final four minutes of the game to prevail on Friday.

Jesus Alfonso and Adrian Morales scored the two goals for the Indians while Christian Alvarez netted the goal for the Grizzlies.

Saugus 0, Valencia 0

Goalkeeper Ryan White had two saves as the Centurions move to 8-5-4 and 2-2-2 on the season and play West Ranch on Tuesday. Saugus also registered 12 shots with five on goal.

Valencia had four shots (two on goal) and is 6-1-7 and 3-0-3 and plays at Hart on Tuesday.

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