Last year Clovis North suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 overtime loss to Sunnyside in the D-I Central Section championship game as the No. 1 seed. But, with a strong returning nucleus the Broncos have come back strong with a serious work ethic, putting in extensive work over the summer.
It’s certainly paying off.
The Broncos, as of Feb. 4, are 6-2-1 in league and 10-3-4 overall, winning four games in overtime with a stout defense and an opportunistic offense.
“Our team has a lot of experience,” Clovis North coach Cameron Shahrokhi said. “Most of these seniors have played in back-to-back Valley championship games. They stay composed and lead the young guys.”
Two years ago the Broncos, as a six seed, lost 3-1 to Clovis in the Valley title game, valuable experience for the current upperclassmen.
But that conditioning, oftentimes grueling, has paid off; seven of their 10 wins are by one goal.
“We have done a ton of conditioning. I think our fitness level helps us in our overtime games,” Shahrokhi added.
Case in point; Clovis North’s 1-0 overtime win at Clovis West on Feb. 1, an intense match with stellar defense from both sides.
With five minutes left in the second of two 10-minute overtime periods, sophomore Christian Silva took a pass around midfield from Luis Castillo and ran straight at Clovis West’s back line, beating two defenders with a left footed shot off the far post.
Silva has scored 13 goals this season after scoring 21 last year as a freshman.
Clovis West, despite a 7-13-1 record, is much improved under first-year head coach Ivan Janssens and gave the Broncos all they could handle.
“Clovis West came out super strong and not only was it tough to score but it was a great game overall,” Silva said. “During the game all I was thinking about was how to get the ball forward as a team and just find any little way we could to find one in the back of the net.”
Shahrokhi, in his third year as head coach, was impressed with the defense of senior Wayne Rutledge and junior goalkeeper Cooper Wenzel, one of the best in the Central Section.
“I was impressed with our defensive organization and patience in possession,” he said. “I thought we controlled the ball for the majority of the game but struggled to break down Clovis West in the attacking third.”
In addition to Silva and Wenzel, Shahrokhi points to the season-long excellent play of senior Josh Tyburski.
“Josh has been a handful for opposing defenders all year,” Shahrokhi said. “His skill and pace is among the best in the Valley.”
Central is at the top of the TRAC at 7-1 and 18-7-1 overall. And, with the addition of three strong teams from the Central Coast in San Luis Obispo (18-1-1), Santa Maria (20-2-3) and Arroyo Grande (16-4-1), the D-I playoffs will be filled with stiff competition starting Feb. 13.
“We will have to be a family,” Silva said when asked what it would take to make a run to the Valley title again. “This is a word that our team preaches and we don’t take this word lightly. Families have their hard times, but at the end of the day they never give up on each other.”