Strong offense powers Saugus to win over Highland

Saugus' Dylan Sullivan (21) drives through Highland defenders Mathan Contreras (16) and Adryan Rodriguez (22) at Saugus High School on Friday. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Saugus boys soccer team got back to its winning ways on Friday morning, defeating Highland 4-2 at Saugus.

The Centurions offense was on point for most of the game, creating numerous scoring chances by pushing the ball out wide, maintaining possession and finding the unmarked man in the middle of the field.

Saugus fired close to 20 shots on goal and easily could have accumulated more goals if it weren’t for some great saves by Highland’s goalkeeper.

“We created opportunities, we didn’t finish a bunch of them. I feel like we really could have had at least another three goals,” Saugus head coach Seth Groller said, “but I do like offensively the way that we were working the ball up especially when we were getting it out wide. I felt like that was creating a lot for us for the runs through the middle.”

Freshman Alec Fryer got the Cents on the board in the 8th minute, receiving a beautiful through pass from Dylan Sullivan in the box and finishing the play by striking the ball into the back of the net.

Almost a minute later, junior John “Jairo” Garcia received the ball from Sullivan and broke through a pair of Highland defenders to net Saugus’ second goal of the day and his first of the season.

Saugus’ Alec Freyer (8) overpowers Highland defender Daniel Vielman (2) at Saugus High School on Friday. Dan Watson/The Signal

“It feels good,” Garcia said about scoring for the first time this year. “It shows that I’m here and that no matter what, even if I don’t play that much I still try to perform my best.”

Whenever Sullivan got his feet on the ball, positive results followed shortly after. He showcased his dribbling skills, shooting ability, touch and precise passing throughout the game.

In the 21st minute, Sullivan used his superb dribbling to break down the Bulldogs’ defense, resulting in a foul just outside of the box.

Sullivan stepped up to take the free kick and blasted it off the opposing goalkeeper. Senior Nathan St. Amand was right there to collect the rebound and put the ball away, giving Saugus an early 3-0 lead.

“He has the speed, he has the touch, he has the shots. He’s one of those players that as soon as he touches the ball you just know something good is going to happen,” Groller said of Sullivan. “He’s dynamic. He’s exciting, that’s for sure.”

After creating several opportunities for his teammates and firing numerous shots on goal, Sullivan was finally able to net one of his own, striking the ball past the opposing goalkeeper in the 56th minute to give Saugus a 4-2 advantage it would not relinquish.

Senior captain Frank Ornelas also had a huge impact on the game, playing out wide on the right wing, a position he moved to the past few games due to injuries. He usually features as an attacking midfielder.

“He’s been huge for our program the past three years since he’s been on varsity. He’s that utility player. He’s a threat no matter where he plays,” Groller said of Ornelas. “He’s one of those players that his soccer IQ is so huge and he knows what to do. He knows when to make those runs and he knows when to stay outside; when to cross it in and when to take them on when to dribble. He’s just one of those players that’s really special.”

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Freshman Connor Claborn also played a crucial role as did sophomore defender Roger Sandino.

Along with Fryer and sophomore Brady Muehlberger, Saugus has four underclassmen who are expected to be key contributors throughout the season.

“Alec and Conner are both freshmen for us. They really have just filled in perfectly,” Groller said. “A lot of young contributors. It speaks to the strength of them and for the future of our program.”

While the Centurions’ offense was aggressive throughout, the defense had a couple of mishaps that allowed Highland to score twice, once in the 24th minute and again in the 54th minute.

Groller said he wants his team to clean up those defensive mistakes before league play starts up again next week.

“We need to tighten up defensively. There were too many opportunities that we gave them,” Groller said. “I think everyone worked pretty well, but defensively we were diving in a little bit too much instead of sticking our ground and delaying them. Other than that I’m proud of these guys today.”

Saugus is currently 0-1-1 in Foothill League, falling to Valencia 3-0 and tying West Ranch 2-2 in mid-December. The Centurions will look to notch their first league win when they face Golden Valley on Tuesday on the road.

“We want to win league. We want to show the whole Hart District that it’s Saugus’ time,” Garcia said. “There are still more games to go and we are going to fight for the league title.”

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