Hilmar High’s Jose Guerrero had a pair of goals in Tuesday’s pre-league meeting as the defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division-V champions toppled last year’s SJS D-I semifinalists, Pitman High, from the Pride’s home in a 2-0 shutout victory.
“Generally speaking, I believe both teams played great. We had a hard time finishing and had a lot of shots on goal. I believe we had three times as many shots on goal as they did, they were just better on target,” said Pitman coach Jaime Suarez. “Great game, they played fantastic, and keeper looks outstanding, their defense is very good, that was a good game.”
“Before the game I told our boys that they are a good school and a good team and it is not going to be easy, but we need to stay patient, stay with our game and hold our shape,” said Hilmar head coach Louie Bettencourt. “I said things will turn around, we will be able to frustrate them, and things will change and sure enough it kind of fell into our hands.”
It wasn’t just Hilmar’s back line that made it extremely difficult for Pitman to even see any open chances.
The second any lane opened up, Hilmar would swallow it up and fill the gap or void, making it nearly impossible for the Pride to even get any shots off without a defender ready to deflect.
If the shot did find its way through, it had to go through Yellowjacket standout goalkeeper Ethan Aiken, who standing over 6-foot-3, was impenetrable during the 80-minute match.
Aiken finished with double digit saves for the game and had over half a dozen by halftime.
“It was all about being patient and not chasing the ball. Everybody played their position and played it well. Sometimes it is not about having the best, it is about who has the bigger heart and working hard out there,” said Bettencourt.
The first half saw a stalemate as both teams finished with the game at 0-0 after the Pride maintained possession for most of the first half.
In the second half, it took six minutes for Hilmar to get on the board when Guerrero drilled a shot from the far left to the far right corner, tucking it perfectly in to take a 1-0 lead.
The Pride were also called for a double yellow, which resulted in a red, and they were left down a man with 31 minutes left in the game.
Guerrero found the back of the net less than four minutes after scoring his first and they took a 2-0 lead, up a man.
Aiken made a couple of more saves in the final half hour of the game, including a crucial set piece save in the 55th minute.
Pitman’s Andrew Soria hit the top right corner post after he struck the ball from about 30 yards out, but no other shot came close as the game ended with a two-goal victory.
“This has been us almost all preseason, we have possession, but with key players we have to shuffle and may not have had the amount of experience in that particular position. So, for the most part in preseason we are just feeling it out,” said Suarez. “But once league starts and we get everyone back healthy, should be a different story. We currently have some key players who are out injured, but when we come back the layout should look different, for the positive.”
Next for Pitman (3-4) is a road contest at Central Valley at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Hilmar (5-2) will next take on Hughson to kick off league play in the Trans Valley League at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 7.