Junior forward Roberto Calderon of Delhi stole the show on Friday night when his Hawks took on the Denair High Coyotes on the road in a pivotal Southern Athletic League clash.
Delhi was coming off a big loss to Orestimba, only the second league loss of the year, but Calderon erased any doubt after scoring a pair of goals in the first half and his third late in the game to secure the 3-1 win over Denair.
“It was an intense game and we had to score to win. I didn’t expect to do what I did. I was just nervous against Orestimba coming off that game,” said Calderon. “But it was a good game.”
“A couple of bad breaks and some bad bounces as well but it happens,” said Denair head coach Greg Gaudio. “I just like how nice our field is, we actually got to play soccer for the first time in a couple weeks and it was a good game, with lots of energy.”
The energy and intensity was at a high level, while the play on the field was as crisp and clean as any.
The touches, passes, saves, goals and the respect in which these two teams have for each other became evident on Friday night.
From the start, the intensity was there and never faded.
It took about 26 minutes for either side to get on the board once Brandon Hagood crossed a ball inside the penalty area to Calderon.
Calderon initiated an attempt to attack but Denair goalkeeper Kyle Cervantes made a save before the ball ricochet off him and Calderon was able to tap it in with a chest bump.
“I knew once we scored one goal then it would be a little easier,” said Delhi head coach Armando Salazar. “It was just getting the first goal that took us a little while, but I thought that we would win. I had a feeling we could win, however, they have improved a lot.”
Despite the same result as their first meeting back on Jan. 25, Denair has only progressed since head coach Gaudio stepped onto the field.
“Their coach has made a difference for them and they are a challenge now. They just need a couple guys to help score and they are good,” said Salazar.
Denair had just 15 wins in three seasons from 2012-14.
In less than two seasons, under Gaudio, the Coyotes have 15 wins.
“I have kids who really want to play soccer,” said Gaudio. “I only had six returners from last year and I have ton of players who have never played organized soccer, so to get to this level I feel great about the years ahead and especially being so competitive this year."
Delhi, whose only two league losses for the year have come at the hands of Orestimba, was able to continue their pressure in the first half of Friday’s game.
Calderon found the back of the net for his second goal, just 10 minutes after he scored his first to take a 2-0 lead by halftime.
Senior Hector Jimenez of Denair scored the Coyotes' only goal at the 59-minute mark to cut the lead to 2-1.
Delhi kept their intensity at a high level and managed to put in the third goal with just 12 minutes remaining.
Calderon beat Cervantes on a 1-on-1 and celebrated by raising both hands up in the air and hugging his teammates.
“I always tell the kids not to come out thinking it’s going to be an easy game,” said Salazar. “I always tell them to be ready because these guys, Denair, they want it more than we do and we always have to come ready.”
Delhi remains in the top three after they improve to 7-2 in the SAL while Denair goes to 3-4-1.