By TED SILLANPAA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
James Pierpoint scored three goals and the defense sparkled Saturday as Maria Carrillo High battered Casa Grande, 5-0, in a North Coast Section Division I boys soccer quarterfinal at Elsie Allen.
The win improves the No. 1-seeded Pumas’ record to 21-0-2. The Gauchos, seeded eighth, finish the season 7-5-1. Carrillo had beaten Casa Grande twice previously in North Bay League play.
Pierpoint’s biggest goal was his first, a penalty kick just 10 minutes into a match that the Gauchos had dominated early.
“I got taken down by three guys in the box,” Pierpoint said of the play that resulted in a penalty call and the game’s first score.
Casa Grande coach Lee Summerscales saw it differently.
“We got a bad call by the referee,” he said. “My defender won a header and the official saw something different. He never explained to me what he saw. It was a ghost call.
“I’m not blaming the officials for the loss. I take full responsibility for it. But when you take a sucker blow like that early in a match against a team as adept as Maria Carrillo, it’s hard to come back.”
Donte Garcia scored the first of his two goals in the 18th minute, to give the Pumas a 2-0 lead and stem the tide of whatever momentum Casa Grande had before the penalty-kick score.
“For the first 10 or 15 minutes, up until the penalty kick, they were the better team,” said Maria Carrillo coach Mike Masten. “The early goal gave us momentum and took something away from them.”
Pierpoint’s second goal started the process of blowing things open in the 23rd minute.
“We had a good build-up and I got a through ball and scored,” Pierpoint said.
His third goal came just three minutes later and accounted for an insurmountable 4-0 halftime lead.
“We didn’t come out as fast as we wanted,” Pierpoint said. “We started playing some of our better soccer of the year, though. We passed the ball much better and stayed spread out. We were on attack for most the first half. Casa Grande’s a good team and they made it harder on us in the second half.”
Garcia did score with just over eight minutes remaining to give the Pumas a 5-0 lead, but the Gauchos’ defense rallied after intermission.
“I told the team at halftime that we can’t let one official’s mistake take us completely out of the match,” Summerscales said. “We wanted to go out and forget the score and just win the second half. I told them that if we lose, it would be because we weren’t good enough to win.”
Maria Carrillo will host fourth-seeded Terra Linda (15-6-3) in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Marin County Athletic League entry defeated Analy, 2-0, Saturday.
“We just need to play 80 good minutes of soccer,” Masten said. “Our defense was good today. We’ve definitely been solid defensively all season. Every game is tough at this point.”
Maria Carrillo goalkeeper Erik Nunn, who was barely challenged by Casa Grande, praised his teammates.
“Our defensive line was just great today,” he said. “We kept the ball in their half for most of the first half. Casa Grande has some really good players. They’re tough. I’m glad we came away with a win.”
Wednesday’s other semifinal has No. 2 seed Tamalpais (18-3-3), the Marin County Athletic League champion, hosting MCAL foe and sixth seed Marin Catholic (15-9-3).