The nationally ranked Buchanan High boys soccer team, Central Section Division I champion three of the past four seasons, did something Wednesday it hasn’t done since 2010: win its Tri-River Athletic Conference opener.
JT Arruda’s goal in the 75th minute allowed the Bears to overcome No. 14 Central 2-1 at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Grizzlies had beaten or tied Buchanan to open TRAC play each of the past three seasons.
The Bears are ranked No. 8 in the country by Top Drawer Soccer and No. 1 in the section by The Bee on the strength of their championship run through the Lotto Sport Western Showcase, which featured an elite field of nationally ranked teams last month in San Clemente.
“Even though we won down South, we have to prove ourselves here in the TRAC,” Arruda said. “We are grateful to be in the position we are. We’re just going to keep playing.”
After controlling most of the action in the first half, Buchanan (9-1-1, 1-0) found itself down 1-0 in the 48th minute. A long throw-in by Central’s Keven Leal went off a Bears defender and into the net for an own goal.
Oliver Dolberg scored the equalizer in the 64th minute when he hammered home a rebound after a collision in front of the cage between Arruda and Grizzlies goalkeeper Emmauel Villagomez.
“We kept playing our game,” Arruda said. “We controlled the whole first half, so we just stuck to the game plan. That’s how we won.”
Colson Verhalen started the game-winning run with a slide tackle near midfield that knocked possession to Jacob Rudolph. Viktor Dolberg then received a pass back from Rudolph and sent it ahead to Arruda, who controlled it off his chest roughly 20 yards out, one-tapped it to his right, spun and delivered a low liner into the far left post.
“It’s nice to be on top and start 1-0,” Buchanan coach John Spurgeon said. “The TRAC is like this. Clovis schools don’t want to lose to Clovis schools and Central wants to beat the Clovis schools, so it makes for a very competitive league. I think this prepares us very well for the Valley playoffs. And you know, what happened in the preseason was great. It’s a great honor some of the numbers that we’ve achieved in terms of rankings. But it’s really where we’re going to be at in February and where we are in March if we get there.”
Central (4-8-2, 0-1) held Buchanan scoreless in the first half, getting several saves from Villagomez and a strong defensive effort overall.
“I think we matched up OK,” Grizzlies coach Raul Martin said. “All the credit to Buchanan. John has established a great program and it shows. This was a learning experience for us and I’m looking forward to seeing them again.”