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Pitman, Denair soccer squads draw after pair of penalty calls
Pitman boys soccer
Pitman soccer captain Jonathan Rocha made his birthday a little sweeter on Monday afternoon as he scored the game-tying goal in the 30th minute against Denair by way of penalty kick (CHRISTOPHER CORREA/The Journal).

Only 10 minutes separates the Pitman High and Denair High campuses, and just like the drive the Coyotes took to Turlock on Monday, the match between them and the Pride was incredibly close. Ultimately, the match ended in a 1-1 draw, with the only goals coming by way of first half penalty kicks for each team.

It was the Coyotes who struck first when captain Diego Padilla was handed the responsibility of the penalty kick in the 21st minute, and just eight minutes later, the Pride themselves were fouled in the box. The call made way for Pitman’s own captain, Jonathan Rocha, to send a strike to the back of the net for the equalizer.

Rocha, who also celebrated his birthday on Monday, spoke about his confidence in kicking the penalty while facing the early deficit.

“It feels really good to get a goal on my birthday,” Rocha said. “I was composed in my own head, and I think we need to play that way to get the result we want.”

And while the final score stood at 1-1, each team had their fair share of opportunities after the penalty kicks took place, particularly for Pitman. By game’s end, the Pride had more than double the shots-on-goal than the Coyotes, finishing with 12 compared to Denair’s 5.

Pitman head coach Manuel Romero said that his team has had success all season controlling the ball for the entirety of a game and generating offense, but that there has simply been a lack of finishes. Monday’s game was clear evidence of his analysis.

“We controlled the ball for most of the game and were on top of them most of the time. I saw a really dominant side, but we had that missing piece up top,” he said. “What’s going to make or break our season is how well we’re going to do up top. As soon as we find that missing piece, we’re going to be great this season.”

Though Pitman’s offensive blitz didn’t result in any goals, it did serve as an opportunity for Denair goalkeeper Sergio Torres to add to his highlight reel, especially in the waning seconds of the match. In the very last minute, Pride forward Zach Looney sent a strike from about 20 yards out towards the top of the goalpost. The ball was then punched over the net by Torres, securing the tie and firing up the Denair bench.

Denair boys soccer
Denair soccer captain Diego Padilla kicked off the scoring in Monday’s match against Pitman with a penalty kick score in the 21st minute of action (CHRISTOPHER CORREA/The Journal).

“It was an amazing save,” said Denair head coach Antonio Padilla. “To me, that’s going to end up being one of the best saves of the season. On the defense, we did well considering they put on heavy pressure, but we showed up here and played with heart, and that’s what it takes.”

While Torres and his teammates were all smiles after the clutch save and as Rocha looked forward to celebrating his birthday goal with his family and friends, there was little enthusiasm to be found in both head coaches, as they each desperately needed the win.

Coming into the match, the Coyotes, who are the reigning CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI champions, had an overall record of 2-6-2, despite scoring a combined 38 goals. How is that possible? Failing to report and sit a player with ineligible grades will do it. The act forced the Coyotes to forfeit three games – all of which they had originally won.

“There was a delay in ordering the player’s transcripts and by that time, he had already played and it was just too late,” claimed Padilla. “I don’t agree with it and we for sure didn’t do that on purpose, but it is what it is… It won’t impact us in league, but it can for playoffs in terms of seeding.”

The Pride also found themselves entering the match with a losing record of 2-3. As Romero said when previewing the season last month, he is not accustomed to losing whether it be as a collegiate star or an assistant coach at UC Merced, and that he fully expects the Pride to make a playoff run. The tie makes the potential playoff seeding much more complicated for him and his team.

“This tie was undeserved,” Romero said. “We should’ve won. Well done by Denair because they had a gameplan, they fought through it, but the way we controlled the ball and pressured, we should have won. It’s as simple as that.”

For the Pride, Central California Athletic League play will not kick off until early January. In the meantime, they can still bolster their résumé with four more preseason matches. Over in neighboring Denair, the Coyotes will start their Southern League journey with two matches in the remainder of the week, against Orestimba and LeGrand.