Cougars survive heated match

Clovis High’s Rubehn Martinez (10) goes in for a strike during the Cougars’ Jan. 18 match against Buchanan. (Christian Ortuno/Clovis Roundup)

By Tomas Kassahun | Reporter

In a feisty soccer match played under the rain on Jan. 18, the Clovis boys soccer team came from behind to beat Buchanan 2-1.

The Bears struck first when senior Jonathan Zepeda scored off a rebound in the first half. In the second half however, the Cougars took complete control. Alex Martinez especially proved to be a headache for the Bears, scoring two second-half goals to lift the Cougars.

“We played patiently in the second half and found a couple of weaknesses in the defense,” Clovis head coach Danny Amparano said.

Buchanan head coach John Spurgeon said he was happy with how his team played, but the wet field led to an unfortunate bounce of the ball.

“I think we were fine,” he said. “Somehow [Clovis] scrapped one [goal] over the line off a corner. In these conditions that’s going to happen. [The] ball is going to skip around.”

Amparano said it was important to beat the defending Tri-River Athletic Conference champions on their home field.

“To get farther we have to beat them on their home field. That’s what we did,” Amparano said.

The rivalry between the two schools came to a boiling point in the first half when a scuffle broke out on the field, leading to a red card for the Bears and a yellow card for the Cougars. Spurgeon said his player could have got a yellow card, but didn’t deserve a red card.

“I saw our guy going in to tackle their guy. It’s a foul on our guy. As he falls on him, he grabs his hips. The other guy turns around punches him straight in the face,” Spurgeon said. “I think the referee made a mistake. Just because you grab a guy on the hips, that doesn’t constitute a straight red card.”

While the Bears finished first in the TRAC last season, the Cougars finished third. This season, the Cougars are off to a quick start (17-2 overall, 4-1 league). The Bears (9-5-3, 3-1), want to prove that they are still the team to beat.

“It seems like everybody out here is trying to come after us. We’re the team everybody is trying to hunt down,” Clovis junior Oscar Osuna said. “In the second half, we were tackling more and getting crosses. We just need to work on possessing the ball more, trying to figure out how we can finish against these teams.”

Amparano said he simply saw two guys who were caught up in the heat of the moment.

“It was two guys getting frustrated,” he said. “One kid initiated it, kept going at it. Our kid responded in a way he shouldn’t have. I think tempers were just flaring.”

The two teams will continue the rivalry when they meet at Clovis High on Feb. 3.   

“A lot of the players play on club teams together, so it’s a rivalry between the two schools and between the players as well,” Spurgeon said. “They want bragging rights. Nobody wants to lose to the other one.”

The Cougars’ next game will be on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at home against Clovis East while the Bears will play at Central.