After a scoreless first half at home on Tuesday, head coach Louie Bettencourt strung together some moving words for his Hilmar High varsity boys soccer team — and it worked.
Hilmar’s motivation was apparent in the opening minutes of the second half, notching the first goal of the game at the 44 minute mark.
Three more goals were tacked on by Hilmar before the conclusion of the game and the defense anchored by seniors Steven Cardoso, Miguel Avila and Francisco Lepe were nearly impenetrable, as they shut out Ripon, 4-0.
“This league win is big. We are one game from halfway through the season and without a loss it's big,” said Bettencourt. “I keep saying the same thing, whenever somebody makes a mistake, the other person has to cover it up and I think we were covering each other up. We were reading and helping one another and hopefully that goes in our direction.”
“It’s good to be undefeated because we needed this, hopefully, we can continue to play like this,” said Avila. “I tried to play hard. I pushed hard to defend well and maintain my focus. I was trying to communicate with my teammates in order to keep the ball in our possession.”
Hilmar is now 3-0-1 in the Trans Valley League, with two clean sheets and have outscored their opponents 18-3 during that span.
The victory over Ripon also ends Hilmar’s current losing streak to the Indians, which dated back to the 2011 season.
Before Tuesday’s game, the last time Hilmar had beaten Ripon in varsity boys soccer was Sept. 13, 2011, going 1-6-1 since then against Ripon.
“We played better. Couple games we have played better in, but we did come together and play as a team today,” said Bettencourt. “Everyone was doing what they are supposed to do. There were some silly yellow cards we can avoid, but we just need to be careful and adapt in certain situations.”
After a stalemate in the first half with two one-on-one opportunities that were missed, Hilmar’s determination to find the back of the net increased.
The team was able to notch three corner kicks on back-to-back-to-back attempts and finally on the third, Cardoso kneed in a powerful shot from just outside the goalie’s box, clanking off the inside of the top post for the first goal of the game.
“I was moving more. Everyone was on their toes, nobody was flat footed and we were looking for the ball, calling for it and opening up and that helped, more choices,” said Cardoso.
Jaime Carbajal drew a penalty just seconds after the goal but his shot was saved.
The intensity grew as multiple yellow cards were awarded to each side after a very physical battle.
Six minutes after Hilmar had notched their first goal, Carbajal found the back of the net on a one-on-one, giving Hilmar a 2-0 lead with 30 minutes remaining in the game.
“If the ball is in the court, you need to know what to do. They came out and started putting things together and it worked,” said Bettencourt of the second half outburst.
With about eight minutes left in regulation, Cardoso sprinted down the sideline and crossed a pass from one end of the penalty area to the opposite, finding Michael Cardoso inside for the ‘Jackets' third goal of the game.
Hilmar did not let up.
With a minute remaining, Adrian Yepez flew past multiple defenders from the half court mark and strung a shot from about 17 yards out to secure the 4-0 win.
“This is helping us push our limits, stay undefeated and win our league and then go for the blue in playoffs,” said Cardoso. “We listened to coach and we are the only ones who can beat ourselves and we communicated well and nobody is going to stop us if we play like this.”