Capitalizing on a defense lacking concentration and a roster without its top scorer, the Lowell Cardinals delivered a 4-1 defeat to their rivals, the John O’Connell Boilmakers, on Thursday afternoon.
With 10 wins and two losses apiece, the outcome brings the two teams to a dead heat in Division X of high school boys varsity soccer, and makes them tied for second in the league after the Mission High Bears.
“We don’t quit,” said O’Connell coach Bob Gamino to assistant Maggie Terry, just minutes before the final whistle.
No matter that Lowell forward Safa Mannah had just dumped the ball in the Boilermaker’s goal twice in as many minutes. Watching his boys hustle in defiance, Gamino said, “I don’t care what the score is, there is no quit.”
Quit or not, it was too late for the Boilermakers to salvage victory on their home turf of Franklin Field.
It was a rare defeat for the Boilermakers, whose season record had only been tainted by a September loss to Mission High, the three-year reigning league champion.
“The final score didn’t indicate what I thought was a good game,” Gamino said as he and Clark, his Pekingese Chihuahua, exited the field.
The game was good and exciting as the ball flirted frequently with the O’Connell goal. Nearly the entire second half took place in the extending shade of the eucalyptus trees, as the O’Connell offense teased the ball in front, across, and around its destination–but never in.
Despite all of Rafael Cálix’s waltzing around his opponents and Jaime Venegas’s aggressive defense of the halfway line, the ball eluded their goal like one magnet repelling another. Back and forth the ball bounced “like a ping pong game,” as an exasperated Gamino remarked at one point.
It only took two sudden late breakaways from the Cardinals’ offense for Lowell to clinch victory.
“Their goals weren’t earned,” said senior Ivan Carrion, the Boilermakers’ goalie and team captain. “It was just mistakes on our side.”
Despite missed opportunities on both sides of the field, both O’Connell coaches praised their team. “We had a diverse squad out playing,” said Terry, an English teacher who yelled a frequent “nice hustle white” and “good communication OC” as players ran up and down the field.
The team’s star freshman forward Bryant Izaguirre sat on the sidelines in street clothes, watching along with a few dozen fans. He’s on the bench for another game because of a red card on Tuesday’s match after a referee determined that he was fighting.
As Izaguirre looked on, Senior William Elias dominated control of the ball at midfield, eliciting a constant chirp of “Willie Willie Willie” from teammates ready for a pass. But his first goal just minutes into the game was the only one his team would see on the hot afternoon.
The voice of legendary Lowell coach Ernst Feibusch, whose San Francisco soccer career predates WWII, carried across the field farther than any kick. The O’Connell bench laughed as they heard Feibusch gruffly scream. “The hell’s a matta with you?!” and “Don’t jump like a little boy!”–a stark contrast to the tempered words of encouragement from their younger coaches.
The boys in blue took their loss in stride. “I just think they had luck,” Carrion said, stretching his legs before him on the artificial turf after the game.
Gamino offered a zen-like perspective on the loss. “Today Lowell was better than us. The first time we were better than them,” he said, referring to their 3-1 match-up against Lowell last month. “That’s just how the ball bounces.”