Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera South’s Abraham Vasquez looks to get a shot off during a 6-1 rout over the Bullard Knights on Wednesday.
Memorial Stadium and the County/Metro Athletic Conference were hit with rain, sporadic winds and a biting chill Wednesday night.
The forecast predicted rain and wind, but the eye of the storm brought something much worse — the Madera South Stallions boys soccer team.
The Stallions struck down the CMAC-leading Bullard-Fresno Knights with six goals in Wednesday’s victory. Madera South’s lightning attack and thunderous defense halted the Knights and propelled the Stallions into second place.
“The game plan was simple — play as a team, defend as a team and put the ball away as a team,” Madera South head coach Enrique Garcia said. “We have struggled the last two games on putting the ball away, so we worked on that at practice. Our defense was also having communication problems that we needed to fix. The coaching staff put in a lot of work these past two days to prepare for this game and the boys executed to perfection.”
Arguably the best player in the CMAC — Christian Garcia — put in a masterclass as he scored two goals and collected an assist to bring his season total to 18 goals and 19 assists. His effort included a long-range strike in the first half that broke Bullard early and epitomized how cohesive Madera South play as a unit.
“This is a special team. Everyone plays for each other and understands one player scores, we all score,” Garcia said. “The teamwork on that goal and in this game was beautiful. It’s a coach’s dream to see the team working hard for each other, combing passes, and finding the net.”
David Vasquez, Jose Arreola and Abraham Vasquez combined to score four goals as well to help shut the door on the Knights, but the story was the Stallions’ teamwork.
Five different Stallions recorded an assist in the match. While Madera South have standout players all over the pitch, the ability to check their egos at the door and play for one another is a strength few teams have, and all teams want.
Jesse Flores, Christian Meza, Angel Avila, Garcia and Vasquez were all credited with an assist after a textbook team performance.
For Madera South, recent results had put them in a hole and a win against the Knights was key to turn the season around. The Stallions’ goal was to win the league, but they had to turn the page and get back to Stallion soccer.
“The boys knew that we had put ourselves in a hole and losing this game could have potentially meant losing the CMAC,” Garcia said. “The boys stepped up to the challenge and played with heart.”
Throughout the night, there was one constant — Luis Segura. The sophomore shot stopper held the Knights to a single goal, including five saves. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story on Segura. The underclassman possesses all the qualities to be a top goalkeeper and for Madera South, they get everything out of him.
Regardless of how well the Stallions were playing in the first half, Segura stayed concentrated on the task. A full 80 minutes was required and he not only gave that, but also an all-league performance against a team yet to lose in the CMAC.
Arreola started the Stallions’ early dominance with a goal in the third minute of the match. The Stallions came out of the gates ready for the clash and it proved dividends after a Arreola used his frame to find space in the box where he waited for a corner kick to drop in.
Madera South had an early goal and that only intensified their focus. In the 10th minute, Madera South orchestrated a textbook play as they worked the ball from their end to the Bullard final third.
Six different Stallions touched the ball in route to a skillful finish by Garcia. As the ball transferred from player to player, Garcia floated into position just on top of the penalty area where he received a pass and fired away. The ball was hit so much power the Bullard goalkeeper remained frozen in place.
Madera South capitalized on their wind of momentum after Vasquez scored the Stallions’ third goal in the first half with a close-range finish from inside the penalty area. Up 3-0 on the first-place Knights, the Stallions continued to play with togetherness and energy heading into halftime.
The Stallions came out of the break with the same focus and attitude as the first. Madera South capitalized on their formula and scored three more goals in the second half.
Garcia found the back the net for his 18th goal of the season, but Vasquez took the plaudits for his dominating second half performance.
The junior forward took the load on his shoulders as he shut the door for good on the Knights with two goals. On the season, Vasquez has 10 goals and nine assists. His ability to create for his teammates, but also get his allows Madera South to play open.
Despite the win and despite the positive feelings in the Madera South locker room, it’s business as usual as Garcia and assistant coach Fernando Delgadillo continue to work for the thing that matters most — a championship.