Chowchilla downs Hawks in league opener
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune Liberty’s Jesus Ponce controls the ball in Thursday’s match against Chowchilla while Clayton Cardoza comes in for support.
After a neck-and-neck first 40 minutes, the visiting Chowchilla Tribe pulled away from the Liberty Hawks boys soccer team behind two second half goals for a 3-1 in a non-conference win at the Hawks’ nest.
Thursday’s match featured the first North Sequoia League match for both teams. After a long pre-season, the Hawks and Tribe were primed to open up the league in a fight, and that’s exactly what fans got.
Chowchilla entered the match 9-4, looking for a hot start to the league season. Behind two goals from the sophomore Jose Renteria and a goal from freshman Favian Casillas, the Tribe earned a tough victory on the road.
With a squad comprised of primarily sophomores, Chowchilla showed maturity during moments of adversity, allowing them respond after an early Liberty goal to control the game in their favor.
Although Chowchilla utilized a team effort to defeat the Hawks, one player was amongst everything Thursday night — Renteria.
The sophomore forward has been a constant goal threat for opposing teams this season. A combination of skill, pace and power, along with consistent performances make Renteria one of the top players in the league.
Through 17 games, the sophomore has scored 21 goals and provided three assists. His ability to stay hot from game-to-game is a large part of Chowchilla’s success. In a stretch of six games in early December, Renteria scored 10 goals. A goal in each game he played, including a hat-trick.
For Liberty, Jesus Ponce and Levi Ratzlaff connected for an early first-half goal, but Ponce was a force all evening. Ponce’s agility and pace caused the Tribe fits from start to finish. Although Ponce was hampered with a cramp towards the later stages of the match, his impact was evident.
The freshman has eight goals on the season, but, more importantly, his energy and fight when he’s on the pitch is his biggest asset.
For Ratzlaff, the forward scored on an assist by Ponce. Ratzlaff’s ability to maneuver and convert in the box allowed the Hawks to charge down the wings with options.
After an early goal by Ratzlaff set up by the vision of Ponce, the Hawks settled the game down and play with a lead. With coach Leonard Escalante directing his men, the Hawks kept Tribe quiet until the final minutes of the first half.
A goal from Renteria tied the game and sent both teams into the break on even terms, but it was Renteria in the second half that decided things for the Tribe after a surge by the Hawks.
Liberty wasn’t out of the match. The Hawks launched an attack on the Tribe goal led by Ponce and Ratzlaff. Ponce showcased his pace with consecutive runs down the right wing. His first effort saw him penetrate the penalty area where he decided to take the shot instead of passing to Ratzlaff.
The ball ricocheted off the goalkeeper and into the path of Ratzlaff, however the forward was unable to latch onto the ball before it was cleared out of the penalty area.
Ponce’s second attempt in the 55th minute saw him hustle for the ball in the opponent final third before winning the ball and dribbling at the top of the penalty area looking for his shot. Ponce found his narrow window and show with power but couldn’t find the mark as the ball sailed high over the crossbar.
With the scored tied at one, Chowchilla capitalized on a Liberty foul in their final third. Up stepped Renteria who measured the distance and fired away from long range. The ball had the pace and accuracy as it flew just underneath crossbar and in for the Tribe second goal of the night.
Chowchilla used its new-found momentum to ride out the final minutes before adding another, courtesy of Casillas.