DENAIR — Not even a full minute after the referee’s whistle blew to signify the start of the game, the Denair High boys soccer team sent a loud and clear message: The Coyotes were here to dominate.
And they certainly did, starting with a first-minute goal on their way to topping Southern League and fellow Monte Vista Avenue resident Turlock Christian High 8-1 on Tuesday afternoon. The headliner of this showcase was senior striker Paul Oei, who finished with four goals and two assists — a rather typical performance from someone who just a year ago suffered a concussion on a skiing trip that left him in the hospital for three days and away from sports for about seven months.
“He’s the best player by far in our league,” Denair coach Daniel Romero said.
That was evident just seconds into the rivalry matchup with Turlock Christian, as teammate and junior Juan Dela Cruz slipped in an assist right in front of the goal for Oei’s first of four scores. After that, the Eagles — whose roster includes four freshmen and four sophomores — just couldn’t stop the surging Denair squad.
“It starts out with help from my teammates,” Oei said. “We know TC and they don’t have as much help as we do. We have a lot of returners, so I have help all over the place.”
Other Coyotes contributed, too. Jonathan Oei had two second-half goals, Dela Cruz finished with one goal and two assists and Carlos Suarez slipped in one score.
By halftime, Denair was up 5-0.
In fact, Romero allowed some of his reserves to play in the last few minutes of each half. Turlock Christian’s lone bright spot came late in the game, when senior Tevin Jones managed to push in a goal.
Even with all the scoring that took place, it was Paul Oei who had the most outstanding day — thanks to his four goals that boasted his season mark to 18. He’s a threat every time he has the ball near his feet, which is sort of surprising considering what he went through in the past 18 months.
In March 2009, he injured his head during a skiing trip. He seriously bumped his head into a piece of ice after a jump, which resulted in the concussion. He spent a few days in a hospital and was instructed to say away from sports for more than half a year.
But he’s back now, and he says he’s fine except for the occasional headaches.
His coach believes he’s the best player in the Southern League and has the talent to play beyond high school.
“He’s amazing right now,” Romero said of Oei. “And I think all the other kids are playing at his level. Sometimes when you have a player that plays a lot more, sometimes they play behind. They’re all playing at the same level.”
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