The Canyon Del Oro boys’ varsity soccer team defeated Pusch Ridge Christian Academy 9-0 on Jan 17.
The lopsided win brings into light the challenges smaller schools like Pusch Ridge have been facing since athletic divisions were recently realigned under the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
“The realignment has been tough for us,” said Pusch Ridge Coach Bob Coate. “The schedule is much more challenging than it’s ever been for us, and we are facing teams that we never used to face before. We could compete in our previous division, but the new alignment hasn’t done us any favors.”
CDO approached the game as they would with any other.
“With each game, we try to keep a mindset like we are playing Catalina Foothills,” said CDO junior Matthew Smith. “We want to stay focused, and challenge ourselves to use that focus in each game from beginning to end.”
That is precisely what they did against Pusch Ridge last week. Just one minute into the first half, CDO’s Aaron Elledge maneuvered around the Pusch Ridge defense to put the Dorados’ first goal into the net.
Unfortunately, for Pusch Ridge, there was hardly time to reform their defense before CDO was pushing at them from the wing where an accurate cross from Elledge found Alan Robison for a second goal.
While the first two goals came quickly for CDO, it was not the result of being impulsive.
CDO’s ability to move the ball with ease throughout the first half left gaps in the Pusch Ridge defense, which they took full advantage of. The midfield worked well in changing fields and dishing the ball to the wings, resulting in a handful of crosses and 19 total shots on goal by the game’s end.
“We were really just trying to keep the shots going while not allowing any goals against us,” said Eddie Autz, the second-year varsity coach at CDO.
The Pusch Ridge defense managed to slow down CDO for the next 15 minutes, but a well-placed corner kick from Elledge gave CDO’s Matthew Smith the goal, and the Dorados a 3-0 lead at half.
At halftime, Autz told his players the field was too quiet for his liking.
“Our players were making runs, and they were getting to the right places, but they weren’t providing any information to their teammates to let them know they were there,” said Autz.
The Dorados came out in the second half much more vocal, something captain Adrian Contreras said the team has been continuously working on throughout the season.
“If we don’t talk, we are disciplined in practice. It’s just like with any other mistakes we make on the field. Communication is key to getting wins,” he said.
The result for the Dorados was an additional six goals in the second half, most coming within Pusch Ridge’s18-yard box. Scoring in the second half were Matthew Smith, Jarred Polsky, Adrian Contreras, and Alex Abbey, who scored twice, including an impressive volley to find the side net from 20 yards out.
Pusch Ridge managed to break by the Dorado defense a couple of times in the second half, but CDO goalkeeper Josh King was able to stop any balls from finding the back of his net.
Coate said he tries not to let defeats such as this one demoralize his players.
“I tell them to keep their heads up,” he said. “It’s my goal to see the players get better. In a couple of years, I think we will be a pretty strong team. We are so young right now, but we will continue working hard and getting better against a tough field.”