After giving up a fluke goal in the first half of a pivotal game against Clovis North, the Clovis High School boys soccer team trailed 1-0.
The Cougars had to bounce back in the second half or watch their chances of a league title drift away. Fortunately for the Cougars, they have been in plenty of big games in the last few years.
With their experience helping them stay calm, the Cougars netted two second half goals and beat Clovis North 2-1 at Lamonica Stadium on Wednesday, Jan. 30.
To make the comeback, the Cougars had to first rally around goalkeeper Evan Ghimenti, who was devastated after making a critical mistake in the first half. The senior allowed the Broncos’ goal when he was unable to control a pass from his defender and the ball rolled into the goal.
“I saw it the whole way and a split second later it was in the goal,” Ghimenti said. “Definitely a mental lapse on my part. At halftime we talked and they just said, ‘let it go.’ The team picked me up, definitely saved me.”
One minute into the second half, the Cougars scored the equalizer on a header from senior Rubehn Martinez.
“They pressured us really hard at the start of the second half and capitalized their first chance, equalized in the first minute,” Clovis North head coach Cameron Shahrokhi said.
Later in the second half, it was senior Oscar Rubalcava who took a pass from Martinez and drilled the ball into the back of the net, giving the Cougars the lead for good.
“Even with my mistakes, we still played as a team,” Ghimenti said. “We played hard in the second half. It was an amazing game.”
Ghimenti had to make two crucial saves down the stretch to secure the win for the Cougars. The senior’s most impressive saves came in the last five minutes as he tipped two shots over the bar.
“This is a great experience going into the playoffs. It shows that we can overcome anything,” Ghimenti said.
“We said before the game that ‘it’s not going to be one hero or one person that lost the game, it’s going to be a collective effort,’” added Clovis High head coach Danny Amparano.
That collective effort was not only exemplified with the Cougars’ effort on the field, but also with their ability to lift each other.
“Coming back from a mistake, you just have to do what you can to keep your team in it,” Ghimenti said. “I made a mistake. They told me, ‘we’ll get you back.’ Sure enough, two guys did – Rubehn and Oscar.”
With the Cougars having lost 1-0 at Clovis North on Jan. 12, the teams split the season series 1-1.
“We’re done with them in the conference. We might see them for a third time in the playoffs, so it’s 1-1 in the series and we’re hoping there is a Game 3,” Shahrokhi said. “They’re a really good team. They’re really loaded in every position.”
With two games left in the regular season, the two teams are tied atop the conference with a league record of 7-1.
“We still control our own destiny. We win our last two games and we’re still co-TRAC champs with these guys if they win their last two,” Shahrokhi said. “We got to have a short term memory, forget about this and just finish off the last two games.”
The Broncos’ last two regular season games will be at home against Clovis West on Feb. 2 and against Buchanan on Feb. 6. The Cougars will host Central on Feb. 2, then close out the regular season at Clovis West on Feb. 6.
“People were talking about this being the game. To me, it’s not. Central is the next game,” Amparano said. “We gotta get by Central on senior night. We’re going to be graduating 18 guys, so they’re going to come in here and give us problems.”