The Clovis High Cougars boys soccer squad have been a formidable offensive threat all season long.
Having scored over 50 goals during the regular season, the Cougars have elite talent everywhere on the pitch. But it was one Jesus Ponce who outshined the rest in the Cougars 4-1 first round victory over Bullard in the Central Section playoffs.
Ponce was dominant in the midfield all game long, but it was his finishing ability that proved to be the difference in the contest as he netted a hat trick to carry the team’s offensive output.
“It feels good to do my part,” Ponce said. “The defense did its part, I did my part and I just do it for my team.”
Ponce, who had already been a factor by dictating pace in the midfield, decided he would take things into his own hands, or feet, racing down the right sideline and slipping a ball past Knights keeper Jack Blickenstaff to put his team ahead 1-0 in the 13th minute.
They didn’t stop there, though. The Cougars continued to dominate possession of the ball, and again Ponce found himself in the middle of the action.
In the midst of a counterattack, Ponce dribbled straight down the middle of the pitch into the attacking third. With no viable passing options available, Ponce unleashed a hellacious strike on goal from over 20 yards away that nestled its way into the top corner of the net to give the Cougars a 2-0 lead that they happily carried with them into halftime.
After the break, it became apparent very quickly that Clovis hadn’t lost any of that momentum it built up.
Clovis continued to play keep away, and senior Adolfo Medina became the beneficiary in the 44th minute, scoring the Cougars third goal to take a suffocating stranglehold on the match.
Bullard’s Hudson Fortunato did all he could to jumpstart a sputtering Knights offense by putting a ball past Cougars keeper Vinny Sabatini in the 58th minute to make the score 3-1, but it was to no avail.
Ponce put the finishing touches on his memorable night with yet another score with fewer than two minutes left, sending the Cougars to another date with rival Clovis North in the second round of the playoffs.
Clovis lost both its league games against the Broncos by a score of 1-0, but coach Danny Amparano knows his team will be prepared for the third installment of the series.
“It’s another rival where one of us is going to be there,” he said. “I think a lot of the kids know each other and we’re probably a better road team, so we’re looking forward to it.”
The Cougars and Broncos will kick off the second round of the playoffs Thursday at 3 p.m., the winner advancing to the semifinals.