Christopher High senior Emmanuel Lopez is one of the starters on a Cougars team that is poised for one of the best seasons in program history. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
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If first-year Christopher High boys soccer coach Josue Salgado can guide the Cougars to a Central Coast Section championship within the next several years, he’ll be the prep version of Georgia football coach Kirby Smart: someone who has such tremendous pride in his alma mater that he returned as a coach and led the team to a long-awaited title. 

Smart has said time and again there’s no place he would rather be than Athens, Georgia, and Salgado echoed similar sentiments in regards to his love for Christopher High and becoming the first former CHS graduate to return as a head coach for a varsity sports team. 

“I was a part of the class of 2013, the first four-year graduating class at the school,” said the 26-year-old Salgado, whose full-time job is a P.E. teacher at Gilroy High. “Coming back to Christopher, this is something I’ve dreamed of since I was a player here. I’ve always wanted to come back and be a head coach here. The fact that I’m the first alumnus head coach means the world to me because I care so much about the program. I was here from the very beginning when we had no stadium and were playing on a dirt field. To see our facilities now, coming back means so much more.”

The Cougars went 3-2-2 in non-league action leading up to their first Pacific Coast League Mission Division contest on Jan. 10, a 1-0 loss to San Benito High. Salgado was enthralled that senior midfielder and captain Zack Beardsley decided to play for the school team this season after spending time playing for the Breakers, a top-flight Academy club program. 

“I’m really excited Zack left Breakers to come play his senior year at Christopher High,” Salgado said. “A player like him leaving the Academy for high school—first off, it’s an honor he did that because that’s a tough task to do since Academies hold back a lot of high players from playing for the high school.”

Salgado said Beardsley is the real deal: technically sound, strong on the ball and possesses great vision, allowing him to make passes just as a teammate starts to make his break.  

“He knows where he’s going to go with the ball before he gets it and always makes the smart pass,” Salgado said. “He’ll look for that killer pass, but if it’s not there, he won’t force it. He keeps our tempo and rhythm going, and his soccer IQ and smarts are evident on the field. And he’s always pushing teammates to the limit in a very respectful manner.”

Salgado said the team is in good hands at the goalkeeper position. Senior Brian Jimenez has been a “great leader” from the back and Salgado expects him to be one of the better goalies in the league. 

“Brian’s reaction saves are incredible, especially against hard shots,” Salgado said. “He’s got fantastic reaction times and has made some big saves.”

CHS also has junior goalkeeper Ricardo Bustamante, who figures to get some time in goal as the season goes on. 

“He’s neck and neck with Brian and I’m just excited to have two fantastic keepers I trust equally,” Salgado said. 

Senior forward Giovanni Camacho has the ability to score on a moment’s notice because of his determination and resiliency. 

“He has a knack for the goal and the willingness to battle for the ball and get dirty,” Salgado said. “He’s just hungry and has an appetite to score and he finds a way to do it.”

Senior Jermaine Thomas, who is coming off a tremendous season on the football team, mans the center back position and plays a physical style befitting of his position. 

“It’s great to see that because yes, soccer is a technical sport, but you also need a little physicality,” Salgado said.

Salgado is in the unique position of sharing an office with Gilroy High coach Armando Padilla while also having members of the Mustangs’ boys soccer team in some of his P.E. classes. The teams will play each other for the first time this season on Jan. 20.

“It’s always friendly batter with some smack talk, and I love it,” he said.

The Cougars blend a roster featuring a huge senior class with a healthy number of sophomores and juniors. The team starts four sophomores, including Blake Harding, Edisson Torres, Gilmar Torres and Daniel Diaz. 

“We have a great sophomore class that everyone should be excited about,” Salgado said. “I’m pumped up for those guys because if they put in the time, they’re going to get better which will make our team stronger.”

Salgado has five assistant coaches on staff, which is pretty unheard of at the high school level save for maybe a nationally-ranked caliber squad. However, Salgado said he plans on running CHS like a Division I program, which means bringing in position specific coaches to tap the potential of everyone on the roster. 

“We have coaches for every position to help the players work on their individual skills,” he said. “We’re really running a great program. This program hasn’t had much success in the past, but we’re hoping to change that.”

Gilmar Torres is one of four sophomore starters on the CHS boys soccer team. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
After a terrific football season, Jermaine Thomas has made a seamless transition to the pitch. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Ryan Koontz, seen here scoring a goal last month against Live Oak, provides CHS with depth. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected] and (831) 886-0471, ext. 3958.

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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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