Christopher High School senior Ezra Echauri warms up before a Jan. 20 game against Live Oak. The Cougars went on to finish 1st place for the season in the Blossom Valley Athletic League, Santa Teresa East Division. Photo: Jonathan Natividad
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The Christopher High boys soccer team produced the best season in school history this year. The Cougars ran all the way to the Central Coast Section Division III final for the first time, racking up a 17-3-2 record that included a sparkling 8-0-2 mark for 1st place in the Blossom Valley Athletic League, Santa Teresa East Division.

“Our seniors have been the key to our success,” coach Josue Salgado said. “We have great players and great leaders. Offensively, we try to be dynamic. Play possession or go long. On defense, we are good at communication and covering.”

The 2023-24 year improved upon two good seasons in which the Cougars were a cumulative 17-9-10. That was a huge step forward over a rough period of four years where CHS was just 15-42-17.

And this year’s side not only reached the playoffs for the first time since the 2015-16 team, they soared all the way to the final. Christopher’s playoff wins were 2-1 over Santa Clara and 4-0 against Seaside, before they were edged in the title match 1-0 by Everett Alvarez.

“I have four seniors that stand out,” Salgado said. “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. Those four are the huge motor of this team.”

The senior four are supported and complemented up front and in the midfield by Rylan Antipuesto, Avery Montejano, Michael Ruiz, Jason Procopio, Devon Vander Zwaag and Luca Warren. Most midfielders contribute mightily on defense too, and that is paired with the backline, which includes Victor Ogieriakhi, Daniel Diaz, David Romero, and Aiden Lopez. Tristan Hawk and Alan Sanchez have been the keepers.

A solid start to the season included victories of 4-1 over Anzar, 2-0 against Rancho San Juan, 3-1 versus Silver Creek, 2-0 over North Monterey County, and 4-2 at Valley Christian. On Dec. 12 in one of the biggest wins of the season, Torres headed in a cross from Antipuesto to give the Cougars a 1-0 win over a Hollister side that later won the CCS Division II title. Losses came against Overfelt and Del Mar.

On Jan. 5, Christopher beat city rival Gilroy 2-1 and four days later, launched league play with a 4-3 win at Andrew Hill. 

The Cougars then really caught fire on the defensive side. Over the last nine games of the 10-match league season, CHS allowed just two goals. The 8-0-2 record included sweeps over Evergreen Valley, Sobrato, Live Oak and Hill and two ties versus Silver Creek.

The Cougars continued that charge in the first two playoff games, running the defensive streak to three goals over 11 contests, entering the matchup with Alvarez. The visiting Eagles scored just once in that game but it was enough.

The title match could have gone either way. Early on, Ogieriakhi and Ruiz set up Torres for solid chances. On one shot, Torres hit the right post but the ball bounced back. Alvarez countered as Luis Macias scored on a free kick from 15 yards out in the 30th minute.

Christopher pressed hard, with forays from Echauri, Torres and Ogieriakhi. The Eagles were strong on defense and in the goal and held the fort. A disappointing result on a warm afternoon before a large home crowd, but in the big picture, an excellent season with a league championship and playoff success unparalleled in school history.

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