By RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
PETALUMA — The host Casa Grande boys soccer team erupted with a scoring outburst in the second half to defeat North Bay League rival Rancho Cotate, 5-0, in a battle between second-place teams on Tuesday night.
The win gives the Gauchos (7-2-1, 5-1-1) sole possession of second and the loss drops the Cougars (7-2-3, 3-2-1) into third. Both teams trail Maria Carrillo.
“We were hungry tonight. It was just an all-around good performance,” Casa Grande coach Lee Summerscales said. “Now we just have to do it the second half of the (NBL) season.”
Things started out slowly for both teams, with tentative play by both squads and no shots on goal for the first 25 minutes.
“It was sloppy in the first half,” Summerscales said. “Both teams couldn’t find their grove and were feeling each other out.”
Momentum tilted towards the Gauchos on a penalty in the goalie box as Rancho’s Alan Andrade fouled the Gauchos Ivan Hernandez in the 27th minute. Casa Grande’s Nick Klimenko converted the penalty kick past Cougars goalie Danny Ortiz.
“It was one of those games that could have gone either way (at the beginning) and the goal kick swayed it,” Rancho coach Eamon Kelly said. “Casa Grande was very aggressive and wanted the game. They played a top-notch game.”
Trailing 1-0 at half, Rancho came out pressing forward for the first 10 minutes of the second half but came away with no scores for their offensive push. The Cougars were continually turned away by Casa Grande goalie Sam Falkenburg (10 saves), who made a few grade-A saves.
“Their goalkeeper (Falkenburg) covers the whole net,” Kelly said. “He made the stops.”
Summerscales said of Falkenburg: “He made no mistakes. He was inspirational and kept us in the game.”
With Rancho’s offensive frustrated, the Gauchos took advantage of a disorganized Cougars backfield and scored four goals in a 13-minute span midway in the second half to ice the game.
“The biggest thing that we did was kill the game by converting our scoring opportunities,” Summerscales said. “We finished our business.”
In the 53rd minute, Casa’s Noah Wilson side-steeped the last Rancho fullback and then dribbled by Ortiz and flicked the ball into the open net for a 2-0 Casa lead.
“I was able to read the body positioning of the (Rancho) defenders and was in the right place at the right time. I just hit it with the right slide of right foot,” Wilson said. “This is a great win for us and sends a message to the league.”
Five minutes later it was Wilson again on a counter-attack who ran 30-yards with the ball and blistered a shot off a Cougars defender that ricocheted in for a goal and a 3-0 Casa lead.
“By that goal we were already having some lapses on defense. We aren’t used to being scored on like that,” Kelly said. “We were a little shell-shocked in the second half.”
It was Wilson’s 14th goal of the season, the most goals by any player under Summerscales’ four-year tenure at Casa. Gravier Pacheco had three assists for Casa.
Casa scored in the 61st minute on a 22-yard blast by Moises Palomares and in the 66th minute on a seven-yard goal by Paco Villegas.
Rancho held a 10-8 edge in shots-on-goals but it was Casa’s shots that went in.
“We were clinical tonight,” Summerscales said. “We shut down Rancho’s main players and connected on our chances. Our quality in the final third of the game got us the result tonight.”
Rancho Cotate’s Michael Tafolla suffered what appeared to be a broken left arm in the 72nd minute and was taken to the hospital.