Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
TALENT — Phoenix's inexperienced boys soccer team has grown up fast.
With a dozen seniors gone from last year's team, Pirates coach Dennis Flenner's roster is essentially the 2011 junior varsity squad.
And it's holding up quite well.
In a battle of Class 4A titans Tuesday, the Pirates rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit to defeat Henley, 2-1, in Skyline Conference play at Hagler-James Park. Entering the day's play, Phoenix was No. 1 in the 4A state power rankings and Henley No. 2.
"They're proving themselves already," said Flenner, whose team is 5-0 in conference and 6-1-1 overall — its tie and loss coming against 6A teams. "We're not very big, but we're quick, and coming from behind against a team like Henley, that's a happy win for us, a good win."
It was Henley's first loss in nine games. The Hornets are 4-1 in conference.
The Hornets' goal came just two minutes before halftime when Trevor Eichelkraut headed in a corner kick.
Phoenix had seven shots in the first half but nothing to show for them.
"We were overpassing," said Flenner. "It gets to the point where you have to squeeze the trigger and get some shots, then our shots were ineffective, so bad choices of shooting."
It wasn't until 27 minutes of the second half elapsed that Phoenix got on the board. Johnny Esqueda took a precision pass from Eli Espana in front of the goal and converted.
A minute later, Espana was taken down with a hard foul in front of the goal and Jose Alegria made good to put the Pirates ahead.
Espana, a junior forward, played very well, said Flenner, who also credited his stifling defense.
NORTH VALLEY 4, HIDDEN VALLEY 3, OT — At Merlin, North Valley's Cody Martin scored the game-winner in the 93rd minute in Skyline Conference play.
Isaiah McLittle forced overtime with a goal in the 78th minute for the Knights (5-3, 2-3 Sky).
Josh Cowell and Trinidad Flores had North Valley's other goals, with assists by Tyler Heath and Martin.
Alan Rojas paced Hidden Valley (2-5-1, 0-5 Sky) with two goals.