On an El Niño soaked field in North County, two Los Padres League boys soccer teams that have been struggling to find their footing in league play got more of the same Tuesday.
Patches of mushy ground caused the players from Templeton High and Nipomo to slip and slide around the pitch from start to finish in a mud-covered game between two teams that hadn’t won a league game this season.
Nipomo striker Angel Gutierrez took advantage of a Templeton clearance that hit off the back of another Eagles player and calmly knocked it past the keeper in the first half to give the Titans a 1-0 lead. The defense, and the conditions, took care of the rest, and Nipomo (2-12-2, 1-4 Los Padres) got its second win of the season Tuesday.
“It was fun,” senior Nipomo defender Andres Figueroa said. “It was muddy, but it’s just nice to be out here and and play for our community.”
“It’s tough playing on a wet field, but you know what, it’s a wet field for both teams,” Templeton coach Dale Wiggins said. “My guys put their heart into it, and that’s all I can ask for. It was a good game.”
Gutierrez, who did not start the game, attacked the Eagles defense and caused problems for much of the first half. The junior striker figures to be a big part of the Titans offense.
“He didn’t start the game because we have had some issues with him,” Nipomo head coach Joseph Veloz said. “He hasn’t been coming to training.”
Veloz said reoccurring issues have hurt his team.
“We havent had a very good season,” he said. “We have had a lot of injuries and a lot of drama with people being out on vacation not coming to training, not having the dedication. So it’s good for them to get a victory.”
Things certainly fell the Titans’ way on a Templeton penalty kick in the first half. After the Eagles drew a PK on a handball in the box by a Nipomo defender, Templeton had a chance to take a 1-0 lead, but Trentyn Cross’ ensuing shot hit off the post and Sam Savery Orton’s rebound shot went right into the arms of Andres Bernal, Nipomo’s third-string keeper.
“He doesn’t usually play goalie, but when he does he is pretty good at it,” Figueroa said of Bernal, who is also listed as a defender.
Figueroa helped anchor a defense that survived three dangerous second-half free kicks by Templeton. He was one of two seniors to take the field Tuesday, but Veloz didn’t expect to have such a young team. After narrowly missing the playoffs last year following a loss to Templeton late in the season, Veloz said that he expected eight seniors back from the 11-13-1 squad.
“But then everything started falling apart,” Veloz said. “We are hoping to get some of the other guys back, but I don’t know. We are already in the middle of the season. We are just going to go with what we have and hope for the best.”
Veloz was encouraged by the play of his defense and Bernal’s play in goal.
“He is a young kid but he is a real hard-working kid,” Veloz said. “It is just good to see good things happen to guys that work hard.”
Wiggins, who has been dealing with injuries on his team as well, saw two more players go down Tuesday. Templeton (1-10-1, 0-4-1 LPL) will rely again on the midfield play of Cross, Savery Orton and Brennan Tobin when it plays Cabrillo on Thursday. Nipomo will play the first-place Santa Maria Saints the same day.
“Every time you get a win there is kind of a spring of hope,” Figueroa said. “So hopefully this will give us momentum into the next game and we want to carry it forward.”