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Pirates continue to roll

Phoenix boys remain undefeated in Skyline Conference play with romp past Vikings

TALENT ' It's the games within the game that have made the Phoenix boys soccer team stand out.

Nine matches into the Skyline Conference season, the third-ranked Pirates were at it again Tuesday, playing hot potato on offense and keep away on defense to turn away conference foe Mazama, 8-0, at Colver Field.

Senior forward Jaime Escobedo was the ringleader, scoring two goals and assisting on three others to help Skyline-leading Phoenix stay unbeaten in league play at 9-0.

I like to take up a lot of space, said Escobedo. If I can get the defense to come with me, then that leaves somebody else free.

It's about the team, not me.

— The Pirates played off Uriel Castillo and Escobedo's unselfishness with an array of crisp, dazzling passes that led to several easy scores.

Defensively, Nathan Bursk and goalkeeper John Rowden spearheaded an attack that allowed only five Mazama shots on goal.

That's what we are, a passing team, said 10th-year Phoenix coach Dennis Flenner. We try to maintain possession every time out ... It keeps defenses frustrated.

Escobedo opened the scoring just shy of the 20th minute, slicing through defenders like the ball was tethered to his foot, then rifling a goal into the upper-right corner.

The Pirates' second goal epitomized their deft ballhandling and unselfish play.

Escobedo slipped a pass to midfielder Albaro Gonzalez at midfield, who one-touched back to the surging Escobedo down the sideline. A first-team Skyline all-star, Escobedo then centered the ball to Bursk near the goal mouth for the score.

Sophomore defender Aaron Detrick handed Phoenix a 3-0 lead at the half with a goal just two minutes later.

For Mazama (5-4), the injury bug has been a common theme.

The Vikings lost Ryan McCarty midway through the opening 40 minutes with a cut to his forehead. Although he would return for the final half, the sight of the wound may have deflated Mazama, said Vikings' coach Dennis Garcia.

I think the kids see something like that and they kind of pull back and aren't as aggressive, said the third-year coach. But I'd say our biggest problem is trying to figure out who's going to go where. It's kind of hard with people coming and going to get a real feel for what we have.

Playing against Phoenix obviously doesn't help, either.

If the first half was a painful one for Mazama, the final 40 minutes proved to be downright agonizing.

The Pirates jumped out with three goals in the first 12 minutes for a 6-0 lead.

Gonzalez fed sophomore forward Ricardo DeLaTorre from 15 yards out to set up Phoenix's first score of the half.

With his back to the net and a defender on his hip, DeLaTorre gained control and whirled a blind, right-footed goal into the right corner of the net.

Escobedo tallied five minutes later off an assist by LeRoy Iboa, and Bursk found himself alone with an open net two minutes later.

Castillo wove through a wave of defenders starting at midfield and beat Vikings' keeper Jonathan Dawson for the seventh Pirate goal. Bursk set up South Korean foreign exchange student Dong Won Kim in the closing minutes for the final score.

Castillo, nicknamed Cookie because his first names sounds like Oreo, used his speed and quickness to help the Pirates control the tempo.

Cookie is just awesome, said Flenner, who played three forwards in the past but now uses Castillo and Escobedo to run the attack. He quietly manages the field out there.

The Pirates, who hold a two-game lead over second-place Henley, finished with 14 shots on goal in the first half ' many coming with an open net ' and 26 for the game.

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Phoenix midfielder Jaime Escobedo, left, works the ball toward the net past Mazama?s Genaro Campos during Tuesday?s game in Talent. Escobedo had two goals and three assists in the Pirates? 8-0 win. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli