Christopher High senior striker Gilmar Torres is hoping to lead the Cougars boys' soccer team to the CCS playoffs for the first time in seven years. (Juan Reyes/Dispatch)

After a series of sub- .500 records, the Christopher High boys’ soccer team posted winning records the last two seasons but still came up a bit short of a postseason bid. 

The Cougars continue to have their sights set on reaching the Central Coast Section playoffs for the first time since the 2015-16 season.

So far, they’re off to a fantastic start in their 2023-24 campaign and currently own a 6-1 overall record, building upon fine records of 7-5-6 and 10-4-4 the past two seasons.

“I feel great about how the year is going,” Christopher head coach Josue Salgado said. “We have a lot of returnees. That’s why we’ve had success early.”

The Cougars are hoping to end a seven-year playoff drought ever since advancing to the Division I semifinals in early 2016.  

Christopher’s foundation comes from a strong senior quartet, and fills out with extensive depth.

“They all play in each line. Gilmar (Torres) up front. Ezra (Echauri) is our leader in the middle. Edison (Torres) and Nico (Armeniakos) lead the back line and help us move forward,” Salgado said. “Those four are the huge motor of this team.”

Those same four are supported and complemented by Rylan Antipuesto, Avery Montejano, Michael Ruiz, Devon Vander Zwaag, Victor Ogieriakhi, Daniel Diaz, Aiden Lopez, Luca Warren and others. Freshman Tristen Hawk is in goal.

Christopher continued its excellent start with a 1-0 non-league road victory over a strong Hollister High squad on Dec. 12. 

The Haybalers have participated in the CCS playoffs the last three seasons and beating them in their stadium was a huge accomplishment. 

Gilmar Torres converted a cross to score the goal in the 18th minute and the defense held the fort thereafter. The goal came as Antipuesto sent a cross from the right side into the box.

“My right wing (Antipuesto) crossed the ball and it hit the post,” Gilmar Torres said. “I went at the rebound hard with my whole body. It was about one or two yards off the line. I hit it with my head.”

The Cougars protected their lead and did not just lay back defensively. Gilmar Torres and Echauri kept pushing the offensive attack. 

The defense shined on a chilly night, with the Balers pressing forward intensely. Edison Torres, Armeniakos, and Ogieriakhi led the effort to keep the play away from dangerous areas and clearing the ball up the pitch.

“I feel pretty satisfied with the first half,” Salgado said. “We were dynamic with our attack. The second half was more about controlling. To go to an away game and a tough place to play. They start pressing you and we still got the win.”

For Hollister, Hernan Alvares Funes made great plays in tight quarters and produced offensive chances for himself and others. Cortes Moreno displayed speed that resulted in scoring threats. Huerta Sanchez and Diego Hernandez made major contributions.

“Christopher has three or four superior players and they are good at controlling the ball,” Hollister head coach Greg Bloom said.

Afterward, the Christopher bench and players on the field rejoiced and there were many smiles after a hard-fought game. The Cougars thanked their fans who had made the trip down to Hollister to support them.

“We played good in the first half and even better in the second half,” Gilmar Torres said. “Our attack was very good, with many shots on goal. Our defense did well too. It was a hard away game. We hustled and came out with the win against a hard team.”

In 2021-22, Christopher was competing in the Pacific Coast Athletic League Mission Division.

The following year the Cougars made the move into the Blossom Valley Athletic League Mt. Hamilton East Division. This winter, the Cougars will battle in the BVAL Santa Teresa – East Division.

Early non-league games have included victories of 4-1 over Anzar, 3-1 over Silver Creek, 2-0 over North Monterey County and 4-2 over Valley Christian, along with a 4-1 loss to Overfelt.

“We’re a team that likes to possess the ball,” Salgado said. “Our main style is to possess the ball. We train to attack in different ways. We can counter, cross, or go fast with speed.”

That approach was in evidence against Hollister. Continued complete performances can lead the Cougars to the playoffs for the first time in seven years. 

Upcoming regular schedule highlights include a non-league match on Jan. 5 at city rival Gilroy High and league play beginning Jan. 9 against Hill High. 

The Falcons and Sobrato High are predicted to be the toughest competition in BVAL play, as the Cougars fight for the league crown and the playoffs.

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