EL CENTRO — In the 2017 Copa del Valle boys’ high school soccer rivalry game between Central Union High and Calexico High, the Spartans outscored the Bulldogs 4-2 at home on a chilly 46 degree Friday night, taking home the coveted trophy.
At mid-season, Imperial Valley League title implications juiced up the stakes of coming away from this game with a win and a second place slot in conference, one game behind the peaking Southwest Eagles.
It took 15 minutes of feeling each other out before Richard Guzman inherited a cherry rebound on a throw in clearance, and shot one past the Calexico goal keeper to put the Spartans up 1-0.
After a deflected cross rebound 21 minutes into the game, Manuel Ortiz found the back of the net again for Central to put the team up 2-0.
With 9:41 remaining in the first half, the Spartans were awarded a free kick from the top of the box. Guzman cut toward the goal on the left side and was on the receiving end of a sharp cross that resulted in a picture perfect tap drill that gave Central a commanding 3-0 advantage.
Right before halftime, the Bulldogs bit back on a quick two-on-one gash up the middle to gain ground on the Spartans, making the score 3-1 at the break.
In an effort to protect the ball and field positioning in the beginning of the second period, Central began to utilize a strategy of concentrating their personal on the defensive side of the field to assist the goalie in protecting the net.
For the majority of the final half, the Spartans thwarted Calexico’s offensive threats by clearing out the ball and deflecting their shots on goal.
The Spartans halted another Bulldog near-goal when a lob into the box turned in to a one- on-one jump ball and Patrick Sanchez swiftly snatched the ball away from the Calexico’s striker’s header attempt.
With seven minutes to go in the game, the Bulldogs were on the scent of a come-back as they pulled to within one goal at 3-2 on a head shot that zipped into the back corner of the goal.
The Spartans quickly pulled the choke chain on the Bulldogs as they scored the deflator before the five minute mark to close out the match 4-2 and claim the 2017 Copa del Valle trophy.
“We started this tradition of Copa del Valle in 1990-1991 when we decided that the two best teams in the league at that point should play a trophy game against each other,” said Nabil Nougaim, the former Central Spartans varsity soccer head coach, as he addressed the fans over the PA system after the game.
“We are now in a good position to win league,” said Demian Rodiles, Central’s varsity boys’ head soccer coach. “This win just got us one step close to making the playoffs and winning the championship in IVLs. My kids never quit, they don’t, and they don’t stop playing until the final whistle,” Rodiles added.
Central will head to Imperial Feb. 1 to clash with the Tigers as Calexico travels to Point Loma on Jan 30 for a non-conference match.