Castaic junior Gabe Sanchez picked a great time to score his first goal of the season.
Facing defeat at Golden Valley on Thursday, Sanchez notched a late equalizer with what was essentially the final kick of the match as Coyotes boys’ soccer was able to come away with a 1-1 draw.
Castaic had been fighting to get back in the game for the entirety of the second half, but to no avail, until finally, on a throw-in from senior Imudia Aimiuwu, Sanchez was able to find space in the 18-yard box and connect to steal a point.
“I just went to the center,” Sanchez said. “I was scared to go in front. But the ball came right to my feet, and I shot it.”
The draw is Castaic’s second straight positive result after the Coyotes picked up their first Foothill League victory ever Tuesday in their 4-2 win over West Ranch. Sanchez feels that the program is turning a corner after a rough start to the season, especially considering that the Grizzlies were able to walk away from Castaic with a 4-0 win earlier in the year.
“The first time we played them, that was our first game, we hadn’t really played with each other,” Sanchez said. “We got a new coach, he’s really good, I like him, and now we’re playing together, more as a team. It’s pretty fun.”
The Grizzlies (6-6-4, 1-4-2) were coming off three straight draws, two of them in Foothill League play, and looked to be well on their way to their first win in the league since Dec. 16 when they beat Castaic.
Golden Valley junior Alex Risdon opened the scoring with 16 minutes to play in the first half for his sixth goal of the year. He took advantage of a misplaced pass near the goal and was able to rifle the shot into the back of the net.
“He just knows where to place it,” Golden Valley head coach Stephen Evison said. “I think that’s his sixth goal of year. They’re all like that, just perfectly placed.”
The Grizzlies kept the pressure up for the remainder of the first half, and were it not for a couple of key stops from the Castaic defense, along with some shot-stopping moves from junior goalkeeper Marcus Roberts, the Grizzlies could have been in front by more, but went into the break with the 1-0 advantage.
“We’re always talking, and our keeper saved us a bunch of times,” Sanchez said.
It was a different story in the second half, with the Coyotes mounting pressure early with a long-range free kick that Grizzlies junior goalkeeper Gelber Sandoval was just able to push out for a corner kick. He was called on quite a bit more in the second half and delivered every time, to Evison’s delight, until that final shot.
“He always gives me his best,” Evison said. “He came into the program last year and when when he comes on the field, defensively, you’re just kind of playing with a little bit more confidence. As a team, when you know you have somebody of that caliber behind you, it’s way easier to play. He’s been making those [saves] all year.”
Evison will now look forward to watching how his team matches up against Hart (13-1, 6-0) on Tuesday when the two teams square off at Golden Valley at 3:15 p.m. The Indians took the previous meeting between the two teams, 1-0.
“We’re just struggling to find a win, but you know, I guess draws are better than losses,” Evison said. “I told the boys we need three wins before the game; that’s still the case. We still need three wins.
“I’m just hoping for a little bit more come-togetherness with my group and I’m really looking to close out this season. I really want to make playoffs.”
Castaic will face off against Valencia on Tuesday at home at 3:15 p.m.