By Joe Naiman
If weather permits, Ramona High School’s boys soccer team will close out pool play in the Grossmont Tournament this Saturday at Helix High School against defending CIF Division II champion University City.
The Bulldogs will take a 4-0-1 record, including a 1-0-1 mark in tournament pool play, into the game against the Centurions.
The Bulldogs, who began their season Dec. 2 with an 11-0 road victory over Calexico Mission, played their home opener Dec. 6 and defeated El Capitan by a 2-0 score.
“We really controlled the tempo, said Coach Michael Jordan. “I bet we possessed probably 70 percent of the ball.”
The Bulldogs scored one goal in each half, both from Andy Garcia. Sebastian Bueno had the assist on Garcia’s first-half score while Jose Valencia provided the second-half assist.
Because starting goalie Jesse Bonilla split time in the nets with senior Augustin Gutierrez in the Calexico Mission game, the shutout against El Capitan was his first non-shared blanking of the season. Bonilla was assisted by defenders Valencia, Carlos Bustos and Connor Maruna.
“We did what it took,” Jordan said.
Ramona hosted Valley Center in a Dec. 9 night game. Although the current North County Conference realignment has placed Ramona in the Palomar League for the past two years, the two teams had been in the Valley League since that league’s 1998-99 creation and a rivalry had developed between the Bulldogs and Jaguars.
“The emotions always run high, and it’s like a playoff atmosphere every time we play Valley Center,” Jordan said.
The first half of the game was scoreless, but Ramona scored three times in a 10-minute span during the second half. Garcia scored his sixth goal of the season, Julio Velasco had his third score of the year, and Adam Dolan’s 30-yard shot constituted his second 2011-12 ball into the net.
“Everybody got a chance to play.,” said Jordan. “All the reserves were in when it was three to nil.”
It was a controversial play rather than a substitute defense that gave the Jaguars their only score of the 3-1 result. An indirect kick was awarded in the penalty box, forcing a Ramona wall just in front of the goal.
Valley Center took a shot off the deflection that went past sophomore goalie Jason Morton, who was called up from the junior varsity after Gutierrez opted to focus on academics.
“It was definitely not his fault,” Jordan said.
Ramona’s first two Grossmont Tournament games took place Dec. 10. The 11 a.m. start against Helix at Helix and the 2 p.m. start against Steele Canyon at El Cajon Valley High School gave the Bulldogs three games in three different locations within a 24-hour period.
Garcia’s goal gave Ramona a 1-0 halftime lead against Helix.
“We just couldn’t shut the door,” Jordan said.
The Highlanders scored twice in the second half to give the Bulldogs their first deficit of the season.
“Second half Helix basically played inspired soccer,” Jordan said.
In the waning minutes, a Ramona shot went off the crossbar, seeming to doom the Bulldogs’ hopes. In the final minute, Ali Aparicio took a corner kick and Carlos Blanco turned the loose ball into the equalizing goal.
“He just has the knack of being in the right place in the right time,” Jordan said of Blanco.
“We felt happy to get the draw,” Jordan said. “We were a little disappointed that we hadn’t put the game away earlier.”
The game against Steele Canyon saw the Bulldogs score both first-half goals. Dolan headed a Garcia corner kick for the first goal while Dylan Loftis obtained a loose ball and took the shot which gave Ramona the 2-0 lead.
“Steele Canyon pushed in the second half and they got one back, but in the end we were able to hold off their attack,” Jordan said.