After repeatedly being knocked out of the running, the Marcos de Niza boys soccer team is fighting back for spot in the Division II state championship game for the first time in 20 years.
This current group of players with head coach Daryl Chavez, who is a banker by day, finished the regular season undefeated at 12-0 by believing in themselves and playing for each other according to the team in unison.
The team now has a chance to do something that another Padre boys soccer team has not been able to do in recent years: bring home a championship trophy. The school previously garnered three consecutive championships, winning its last one in 1992.
“It was the best feeling in the world when we finished 12-0 in the regular season and (became) the champs of our section,” said Moses Chacon, backup goalkeeper for the Padres. “Being in this position with the chance to go all the way…is a great feeling.”
The Marcos team, consisting of 11 seniors, five juniors and one freshman, has fought hard all season for this chance by outscoring their opponents 30 goals to 12 and amassing five shutouts with the help of goalkeeper Victor Sanchez who also had 68 saves in the regular season.
The 30 goals have been spread out among five players, with team co-captains Connor Buckley and Danny Molina scoring nine each and Jose Seguera following closely with seven. The only freshman on the team, Callan Little, had three, while Nick Palomares had two.
“Callan is unique on our team because he’s the first freshman to score a hat-trick for a Marcos soccer team in years,” said Buckley.
Players who do not score goals are credited with points in soccer for assists, which are offensive passes that lead directly to a goal. Leading in assists for the Padres are Seguera and Buckley with six each but several other players, including junior Cody Spielberg, Naveed Khosraviani, junior Abdirahman Aden, Little, Molina and Palomares were all credited with assists for the team.
The Padres soccer team has several good mid-field and defensive players who help the goal keeper defend their goal including co-captain Michael Reddington, Trevor Knox and Brian Drew.
“Reddington along with Molina and Sanchez, our goalie, are key players crucial to our team’s run for the state championship,” said Buckley. “A possible sign of good luck is that Victor Sanchez, our goalie, has the same last name as our school’s old principal, whom our stadium is named after.”
Drew was designated by the team as one of the key players whose contribution didn’t always show up on the stat sheets but is important to the team’s success because he “gets inside the head of the opposing players.”
Other members of the team contributing on and off the field are seniors Tim Lagunas, Dillon Moore, David Ieng and junior Sam Steele.
Another detail not prominently entered in the record books but memorable to this team is the fact that, to accomplish its goal of going undefeated in the regular season, this Padres team had to win its first and last two games in overtime with penalty kicks.
Marcos defeated Millennium Dec. 1, with an official score of 3-2, which actually was won 4-3 in penalty kicks. The same was true for the Padres game Jan. 24 against McClintock and Jan. 26 at Higley.
This Padres team is determined that all the time and effort they put into going undefeated in the regular season will not go to waste during the state tournament.
“Going undefeated was a good moment,” said Dillon Moore, “but it won’t mean anything to us if we don’t go all the way and win state.”
The Padres were scheduled to play in the first round of the state tournament Jan. 31 as the No. 3 seed against No. 14 Washington on the Padres’ home field.
Should they emerge as winners in the first round, the Padres, still with home field advantage, would play the winner of the match between No. 6 Catalina Foothills and No. 11 Independence at 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 4.
The next match, if the Padres continue to win, would be the semifinals played at Paradise Valley High School, at 7 p.m. Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. The finals are scheduled to take place at Camp Verde High School at 1 p.m. Feb. 11.