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Junction City gives Phoenix a wake-up call

JUNCTION CITY ' The third-ranked Phoenix Pirates had reason to be optimistic heading into Tuesday's road match against two-time Class 3A defending state boys soccer champion Junction City.

The Pirates were undefeated and owned a 1-0 victory over Crater, which defeated 3A top-ranked Junction City 2-1 on Sept. 6.

But Phoenix quickly learned that one item doesn't necessarily carry over to another Tuesday afternoon as the Tigers administered a 4-0 nonconference pounding of the Pirates.

They came out and jumped all over us, Phoenix coach Dennis Flenner said. We kept backing up and playing defense. You can't play a team of that caliber that way.

The Pirates (3-1) found themselves behind 2-0 after the first 10 minutes and Junction City had all four goals seven minutes before the end of the first half.

— Senior midfielder Michael Zemba shredded the Pirate defense for two goals and two assists.

Flenner estimated Phoenix had only two shots in the first half.

They were doing a good job interrupting our play, says Flenner. We couldn't get into our offense.

The Pirates made some adjustments at intermission and changed the momentum after the break.

We threatened them quite a bit in the second half, said Flenner. We had a couple shots hit the iron.

Flenner credited senior defender Brian Bones and junior midfielder Jaime Escabedo with raising their level of play to compete with the Tigers.

Thank goodness for Brian Bones, said Flenner. He really made a difference. He stepped up and broke down their passing game in the middle.

Escabedo provided the impetus for the Phoenix attack.

(Escabedo) helped us gain control of the ball so we could get our offense going, said Flenner.

The last time Phoenix was on the losing end of a shutout came against Skyline Conference-foe Hidden Valley on Sept. 11, 2001.

Flenner said Tuesday's loss should send a definite message to the Pirates.

We can't allow ourselves to be playing at the top level if we don't get more shots on goal, says Flenner. It changes our attitude on how we're going to approach things. We have to be more offensive.