The Denair High boys soccer team completed its first-ever playoff run on Saturday in Sacramento by defeating Gustine 3-0 enroute to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI title.
The Coyotes entered the bracket as the No. 1 seed and remained top dog throughout, defeating Ben Holt College Prep Academy and Summerville before taking down the Reds in the championship game. Denair allowed just one goal in the postseason, riding a stellar defense to the school’s first boys soccer title since the program was started in 2001.
“This is unbelievable,” Denair head coach Miguel Hernandez, who joined the program in 2019, said. “The first season I was here didn’t go too well, so I told these guys that I was going to stay longer because we’re going to come back and make something happen. They wanted that redemption and they bought into it.”
Hernandez coached many of the Coyotes prior to high school when they were students at Denair Middle School, he said, like sophomore Azael Gil. Gil scored the first goal of Saturday’s championship game against Denair’s Southern League rival, heading the ball into the goal early in the first half.
“I really didn't think I was going to score on that. I knew I just had to trust myself,” Gil said. “But I saw the opportunity and went for it. And when I hit it, I looked and saw it go in. I was so happy. I'm speechless. It's amazing knowing that finally we made history for our school and our sport. I’m just happy we can bring it all home.”
Fellow sophomore Justin Hernandez went on to score two goals of his own: one in the first half, and an impressive score off a corner kick in the second. The Reds thought they had scored at the beginning of the second half, but it was called back due to an offsides penalty. The game was almost forfeited by Gustine after traffic delayed their arrival, but they arrived just before game time and were unable to warm up.
“The mindset was always to win. Gustine is a good team, but they weren’t a big threat during league. But they were also an opponent that I didn't want because they know us,” Miguel Hernandez said. “We came in with confidence. The saying in Spanish is when you jump into the pool, make sure you don't come out dry. These guys definitely went in there and they came out wet, they came out sweating, they came on drenched. They definitely deserve that win.”
Though Miguel Hernandez is leaving his position after the season is over to coach his daughter, he knows the program is set up for success with young stars like Gil, Justin Hernandez and others. Only three starting seniors will graduate this year.
“There’s a bright future for this team…I would have really liked to have come back. It’s been a tough decision,” Miguel Hernandez said. “They’re extremely young and this group can repeat. I hope they get a good coach because they deserve that.”
Moving forward, the Coyotes will play in Round I of the Northern CIF Regional Soccer Championships at 5 p.m. March 1, with brackets to be announced Feb. 27. Gil said the Coyotes are prepared to leave it all out on the field for a run at a state title with their coach, one last time.
“It’s all for him,” Gil said. “We couldn’t let him leave empty handed.”