Despite a young roster and a not-as-dominant-as-normal start to the season, it’s way premature to be writing off the Buchanan High boys soccer dynasty.
Especially after the three-time defending Central Section Division I champion Bears’ performance Friday at Lamonica Stadium.
Riding two goals and an assist from UC Davis-bound Jacob Rudolph, The Bee’s Central Section No. 5-ranked Buchanan stomped No. 1 Clovis 4-0 to keep alive hopes of winning a third consecutive Tri-River Athletic Conference title and improve their stock for next week’s section playoff seedings.
Clovis, which is ranked No. 11 in the state and No. 47 in the nation by Maxpreps, entered with a 20-2-0 record featuring only one loss to section opposition, and a first-place 7-1 mark in the TRAC.
The Cougars, however, would have to settle for a tie for the league title with Buchanan should they win their finale at Clovis West on Feb. 8 and the Bears win out. Buchanan (12-6-3, 6-2) closes with games on Feb. 6 and Feb. 8 against Clovis North.
“They are solid all-around and have a lot of talent, and I know they will be good in the future as well,” Rudolph said of Clovis. “It’s just important, (because) to continue to win TRAC, we had to beat them. And we did today, so it feels great.”
Buchanan, which has won five of the past six section D-I titles, had lost to Clovis twice previously this season, a 4-2 defeat in the final of the Cougar Classic on Dec. 17 and a 2-1 loss in TRAC play on Jan. 18.
But this time, the Bears struck in the 28th minute as Stephan Morris tapped in a long throw-in from Rudolph, who made it 2-0 11 minutes later when he converted a one-on-one against the goalie.
Buchanan made it 3-0 roughly 2 minutes into the second half when Jonathan Zepeda hammered home a goal from the top of the goal box, and Rudolph put the score out of reach, scoring his second goal of the night in the 73rd minute.
Buchanan goalkeeper Wyatt Madden preserved the shutout with several difficult saves.
“That was our best effort, especially defensively,” Buchanan coach John Spurgeon said. “We were well-organized and stuck to tactics we were going to use for the game, and the boys pulled it off. I’m very proud of what they did tonight.”
Clovis, which had outscored opponents 76-25 entering the game, had several chances in the first half, including three headers within the penalty box that went over the goalpost.
“It’s still a young team we have so that’s why these kind of games happen,” Clovis coach Danny Amparano said. “They are maturing every game and growing but games like this bring us back to Earth. Now we have to go out and win the next game to win the TRAC. We gave (Buchanan) a little bit of hope.”