The Christopher High boys soccer team celebrates after scoring in stoppage time moments before the final whistle in their 1-1 draw with Gilroy High on Feb. 9. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
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The Gilroy Clasico Trophy is staying with the Gilroy High boys soccer team. The Mustangs made it happen with a lively 1-1 draw against Christopher High on Feb. 9 in a Pacific Coast League Mission Division contest. 

Gilroy entered the season as the holders of the trophy and it will stay with them after the Mustangs and Cougars ended this season with a 3-3 tie in aggregate score. In many cases, the away goals rule is a tiebreaker used to determine which team wins—Gilroy has a 2-1 advantage in that one since the teams tied 2-2 in the first meeting on Jan. 20 at Christopher—so in either case, the trophy is staying with the Mustangs. 

For the second time this season, the teams went back and forth with an intensity perhaps unrivaled in other matches. The crowd was buzzing, just like it was on Jan. 20. Christopher completely controlled the play in the first half and easily could’ve had two goals but came away with zero. 

Gilroy started to find its rhythm in the second half and the possession time, while still in the Cougars’ favor, wasn’t nearly as advantageous as it was in the opening half. And when senior forward Jefferson Cruz scored on an incredible effort in the 68th minute, it looked as if the Mustangs were on their way to victory. 

The Cougars failed to generate much in the second half until stoppage time, when senior Ismail Mostafa pounced on a loose ball in the penalty area and slotted an unstoppable shot to incite pure pandemonium from the CHS side. As Cougars’ players celebrated, several Gilroy players lay on the ground motionless. 

Moments later, the referee blew the final whistle. 

“It was one of the most hyped moments of my life,” Mostafa said. “I’ve never had such a large adrenaline rush. It was quite amazing.”

Although the Mustangs felt like they had their hearts ripped out, minutes later they were hoisting the trophy in jubilation, knowing it was staying with them for the next year. In the first contest, GHS was awarded a penalty kick with a minute or two to play and scored to tie the game. 

“So Christopher felt the dagger in the heart as well,” Mustangs coach Armando Padilla said. “So we got kind of the same feeling tonight, that empty feeling both teams experienced at different points.”

Not surprisingly, the head referee issued a half-dozen yellow cards, a testament to the physicality and emotion of the game. Early on, Jared Prieto, Zack Beardsley and Gilmar Torres helped keep the ball on the ground as the Cougars worked their possession game to near precision. 

Gilroy was chasing for the majority of the first half and got one shot on goal in that time. However, the Mustangs picked up their performance in the final 40-plus minutes and counterattacked nicely, generating a couple of solid scoring chances. 

They broke the scoreless tie on a remarkable effort from Cruz, who was sprinting down the right seam all the way down to the endline, where he was met by a trio of Gilroy defenders. Somehow, he managed to keep the ball in play before deftly maneuvering his way closer to the CHS goal.

He then unleashed a shot that deflected off a CHS player in front, setting off a wild celebration. 

“Jefferson is just a stud,” Padilla said. “He was not going to be denied. You can see how he takes one player, he takes another one on, he takes a third player on and still has the ball at his feet. He was our weapon and he was our weapon for the entire year. I think that was his 15th goal, so it’s pretty impressive.”

Both goalkeepers—the Cougars’ Brian Jimenez and the Mustangs’ Daniel Jimenez—had stellar performances. They made routine and difficult saves, and neither had a chance to stop the goal-scoring shots. The Cougars’ Jermaine Thomas, Edisson Torres and Emmanuel Lopez helped control the pace of the game in the first half, while the Mustangs got things going in the second half off of efforts from Cruz, Saul Hernandez, Jacob Salinas, Chris Martinez and Andres Garcia, just to name a few. 

Garcia literally covered the entire field on one sequence midway through the second half, as he won a 50-50 ball near his goal before immediately running the length of the field and inducing a corner kick after a shot attempt. That type of effort was displayed by players from both sides, making for a spirited contest. 

“The emotions are high because it’s one of the biggest games of the season against our crosstown rivals,” Mostafa said. “It’s one of the biggest rivalries there is in the area, and it means a lot to us players for the amount of people who were supporting us and not supporting us. It helps in the game and makes us feel like we have more energy.”

Padilla said he was proud of the way his team has competed all season. The longtime GHS coach switched up tactics and formations once league play started to maximize the team’s ability to compete. 

“We’re a gritty team and we’re not too technical, which we found out about midway through the year,” Padilla said. “Christopher, you can see they have talent all over the field, just oozing with talent. They’re skillful and can hold onto the ball really well.”

Indeed, Beardsley was active in the first half, distributing the ball well and firing a couple of hard shots on goal. Cougars coach Josue Salgado has done a nice job of helping guide the Cougars to respectability for a program that has struggled for most of its existence. 

Mustangs goalkeeper Daniel Jimenez was solid yet again in the the Gilroy Clasico match. Photo by Bryant Hammer.
Gilroy players celebrate keeping the Clasico Trophy after a superior aggregate series score. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
The Cougars’ Zack Beardsley one-times a shot that nearly scored in the first half. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected].

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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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