SOCCER: Trailblazers triumph over rival Rangers

The Golden West Trailblazers defeat the Redwood Rangers 5-2 in first meeting of the season

VISALIA – Rivals Golden West and Redwood faced off for the first time this season and the Golden West Trailblazers came out with a 5-2 win.

The Trailblazers and Rangers met for the first time this season after both teams had their first losses of league play earlier this week. Both were 2-1 coming into the game and both teams were determined to come out on top. But after an early goal by the Trailblazers, the Rangers lost momentum and never managed to catch back up.

“[The first goal] could have been the key moment of the game,” Golden West head coach John McCaw said. “It gave us confidence and maybe it demoralized them a little bit.”

Golden West netted their first goal just six minutes into the game with a penalty kick by Matthew Lopez. Before the goal, both teams were aggressive on the ball, shoving each other around the field to control possession. It was fast-paced, tough play between two top teams competing in a rivalry game.

But when the referees called the penalty in Redwood’s goal box and Lopez scored the first goal, it deflated a bit of Redwood’s play. They weren’t pushing as hard on offense and instead were responding defensively to the Trailblazers’ aggressive offense. As the half stretched on, the Rangers lost further confidence when Golden West senior Angel Rodriguez netted the Trailblazers their second goal of the night.

“It’s tough to have a penalty called on us super early in the game,” Redwood head coach Joey Chico said. “But it’s the name of the game and you can’t really change the outcome of refs’ decisions.”

A big part of the Trailblazers’ success against the Rangers was controlling Redwood forward Jacob McCullough on offense. McCullough has proved himself to be a playmaker for the Rangers, but Rodriguez stuck with McCullough the entire game, keeping him from making moves that might have led to a Redwood goal earlier in the game.

In the second half, the Trailblazers scored another goal, making it 3-0 before the Rangers were able to get on the board. Chris Caballeros got the ball just over the Redwood goalie’s fingertips and it fell back into the net.

As the minutes dwindled, Rodriguez and Caballeros netted another goal each while Redwood finally put a couple of points on the board. Alejandro Morales and Justin Jimenez were able to get around the Trailblazers’ defense to prevent their team from being shut out completely.

Both Redwood and Golden West had their first league losses in the game before they met each other. Redwood lost to Monache 1-0 and Golden West lost to Porterville 1-0 on Jan. 17. Coming off of losses, both teams really needed a win to stay at the top of the East Yosemite League.

“This is gonna be a tight league,” McCaw said. “It’s going to be right down to that last game, so we knew losing two in a row could put us in a really bad spot.”

Despite the loss earlier in the week, Golden West remains in first place in the EYL with a record of 3-1. After tying with each other, El Diamante and Porterville share the second spot with records of 2-1-1 each. Redwood is in fourth place with a 2-2 record and Monache and Mt. Whitney round out fifth and sixth places respectively after tying each other as well.

Last season, Golden West beat Redwood in their first meeting, when Redwood was at home, but Redwood beat Golden West when they met again on Golden West’s field. They will play each other one more time before league standings are finalized and teams are seeded for playoffs. 

“Home turf means nothing,” McCaw said. “They’re all Visalia kids and they all know these stadiums.”

The final games of the first round of league will be on Jan. 25 when Golden West will face El Diamante and Redwood will face Mt. Whitney.

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