Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera’s Jose Escalera scored a goal in a close 2-1 loss to the Bullard Knights last week.
For the second time this season, the Madera Coyotes boys soccer team came within striking distance of knocking off the top-seeded Bullard-Fresno Knights.
The Coyotes lost a close match 1-0 on Jan. 11, before dropping their Jan. 30 matchup, 2-1, but despite the score line, the Coyotes were in every minute of both matches.
“We’ve been in a slump, but I give all the credit to the boys for sticking with the philosophy and the game plan,” Madera head coach Nic Landeros said. “In my opinion, Bullard is one of the best teams in the valley. Not just in the CMAC, I think they are a top-three team in Div. I. For them to only beat us by a single goal, both times with a loaded squad, shows the direction this program is going, and I give all the credit to the players and the staff.”
The Coyotes have undergone a drastic change since last season. Before this season, the Coyotes won 14 games in three seasons, combined, including disparaging results against the CMAC’s bigger teams.
This year, Madera have found their footing with 10 wins, including encouraging results against Madera South, Bullard, Sanger and Edison. Their rise hasn’t just showed in the standings, but also on the field of play.
Through Jonah Hill and Emmanuel Cabello, Madera have been able to give opponent’s sleepless nights. The pair have combined for 20 goals this season, but their ability to work within the team is one of the reasons why the Coyotes have been able to find more success this season.
Goals are important, but so is saving them. Francisco Segovia has been one of the top goalkeepers in the CMAC in 2018-19. The junior’s combination of athleticism and bravery are the perfect fit between the sticks as the Coyote stopper proved to be as decisive as any player on the pitch Wednesday night.
Against the Knights on Wednesday, Segovia made multiple game-saving blocks, including a two-on-one save early in the first half after Bullard’s Michael Gonzalez dribbled into the Coyote penalty area before ripping a shot towards the top corner.
Segovia left his line to make the save.
Although they entered as underdogs, the Coyotes scratched first.
Jose Escalera capitalized on a scramble in the Bullard penalty area, before he latched onto the ball, sending it directly at the Bullard goalkeeper. The ball skidded across the turf, pass the goalkeeper and into the path of a Bullard defender who tried to keep it out, but couldn’t force the emergency save as the ball crossed the white line.
Segovia was called into duty early and often in the first half.
The Knights’ first chance came on a two-on-one after the defense was caught out by the Bullard counter. Segovia looked to be in no man’s land, but gave Madera a security blanket.
Segovia charged the forward, forcing Gonzalez into a rushed shot that Segovia blocked.
Both teams traded possession until the Knights found a chance too good to pass up. In the 30th minute, Bullard found the score off a close-range finish to tie the game.
Four minutes into the second half, Bullard found its second goal of the match.
Down a goal, Madera tried to get players forward, but the Bullard defense was ready and willing to hold out for a 2-1 win.
Hill and his teammates tried to light a spark for the Coyotes but couldn’t find the space needed to make a difference.