By Michael Ashcraft
The Saints wore down last year’s league champs with some pitbullish defending and electric running.
Newbury Park showed technical superiority and greater speed for the first 20 minutes but could not break the deadlock bolt on the Lighthouse Christian Academy defense for high school soccer. Sophomore goalie Justin Berry leaped like Superman to deny some power shots.
“We had no answer for your energy,” the opposing coach admitted. LCA came from behind to win 2-1.
One defensive lapse before the half resulted in the Gator goal, a powerful shot from just outside the box from an unmarked player. Aside from that momentary lowering of the guard, the Santa Monica Christian school worked hard to keep their opponents marked and ground down their superior rivals with sheer exercise of willpower.
Senior Jelove Mira muscled and challenged every defender and every ball to reduce Berry‘s workload.
The Saints had reason to be encouraged, down only one goal at the half. Coach Jack Mefford reminded his team that last year Newbury came from behind to win the game and urged players to get revenge.
It was the five-shot energy drink freshman Levi Photenhauer who latched onto a ball on the right side of the field in the box to cross it in front of the Gator goalie, tying the scoreline at 1-1.
Though undermanned with no substitutes, the Saints breathed a second wind and chased balls, hassled opponents, bodied and pushed the limits of permissive aggression to frustrate the Gators. Junior Erhan Meric wrecked havoc and created danger running tirelessly all over the field.
On a long corner shot from freshman Garrett Lahood that got headered by Newbury to the opposite side of the field, sophomore Brandon Montes ran up and connected for a low shot across the goal that the goalie appeared to not see through the thicket of players. The Saints were winning with only 10 minutes to play.
“I’ve been coaching for nine years,” Coach Mefford said. “And I’ve never seen my team with so much energy, so much heart, so much hunger to win.”
As the minutes wound down, Newbury pressed for an equalizer, but the Saints viciously defended and counter-attacked, pressing for even a third goal.