Lakeside Blue Ridge has won four straight boys fall soccer titles in a row, and would appear to have a very good chance to make it five. The Yellowjackets had a 16-1-1 record entering entering Thursday’s (Oct. 17) match against Holbrook, and finish the regular season next week with a match at Show Low.
The scariest thing is that coach Bryon Crain says this team might be more balanced offensively than in the past.
“We have quite a few of the same players from last year, and the ones who came back have stepped it up this year,’’ Crain said. “We are more confident with our offense. The scoring is more spread out.’’
One of the key ingredients is junior right wing Pepe Nava, who leads the team in scoring with 20 goals and 14 assists for 54 points.
Next in line is Ezequial Esparza with 21 goals and 7 assists, followed by Humberto Banuelos with 16 goals and 8 assists and Clayton Crain with 13 goals and 7 assists. Clayton Crain has been sidelined for about a half-dozen games with a strained hip flexor.
Nava knows what the frustration of an injury is like. He played in just five games last season after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. The injury occurred in a scrimmage when Nava jumped up to head the ball and landed wrong.
“My world fell apart for a few days, but I got back to strengthening it and things worked out,’’ Nava said.
He does not participate in winter sports, but he tried track (distance events) earlier this year to help him build up his strength and endurance. He played golf in the spring as a sophomore, and likely will return to golf again in the spring of 2014.
Because of some injuries to his teammates, Nava switched from forward to right wing. He said he can see the field well and likes to cross the ball in front of the goal.
He admits he likes to score goals himself, but also enjoys setting up his teammates.
“Most of us have been playing together since we were 6 or so,’’ Nava said. “It’s a lot easier to move the ball around if you know where the guys are or where they’re going to be. I know exactly where they like to have the ball.’’
The state tournament will be coming up soon, and Nava and the Yellowjackets vow to defend their crown successfully.
“We had a rough patch or two at the beginning of the season, but the last few games, we have been getting that fire back,’’ Nava said. “We are not cocky. We are confident. We know what we have to do. We have faith in each other.’’