FAIRFIELD — A stellar performance from a veteran goalkeeper and two timely goals from a pair of freshmen added up to a 3-2 victory for the Armijo High boys soccer team over visiting Napa Wednesday night at Brownlee Field.
Clinging to second place in the Monticello Empire League standings, the Indians (14-3-1, 10-2-1 MEL) trailed Vintage by a point entering Wednesday, and they host the Crushers on Monday for a shot at overtaking the top spot.
First, though, Armijo had to dispatch a feisty Napa squad that wouldn’t go away.
Armijo took a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute when freshman midfielder Jonathan Delmendo snared the deflection off a corner kick and blasted it off the crossbar and into the net behind Napa keeper Rodolfo Herrera.
“I saw some open space and I just went there and I got the ball and I chipped it over the goalie,” Delmendo said. “They’re a really great team, we just worked hard, switched the ball side to side and played diagonal balls and just got more goals than them today.”
That’s been a theme for Armijo all season as the Indians’ only MEL losses came to Vintage.
After Armijo took the lead, Napa moved an extra player up and went on the offensive, forcing Armijo goalkeeper Brandon Brimer to do some work to keep the 1-0 advantage into intermission.
Brimer faced six shots on goal in the first half and stopped them all – several times he went airborne to deflect balls surely headed for the top corners of the net.
After Napa stayed on the offensive to open the second half, Armijo’s Jorge Zepeda broke loose down the right side, and fired a pass into the middle of the box, where freshman Christian Diaz turned on it for a 2-0 lead in the 55th minute
“I just thought I had a shot and I took it,” Diaz said, noting that the win was big as the Indians prepare for the final two regular season games. “It gets us more pumped up to go for first place.”
Napa responded quickly with a breakaway goal by Evan Gregory to get within 2-1 at the 49-minute mark.
The host Indians weren’t done, though, and in the 69th minute Trevor Flynn charged the box and drew Napa’s Herrera out of the net, but Herrera overran the ball, leaving Flynn a wide-open net and giving Armijo a 3-1 lead.
Napa scored one more in the 76th minute, but Brimer and his defense made the lead hold.
Brimer finished with seven saves.
“A great job by Brandon every game. I cannot say enough about how much he makes a difference on this team,” Armijo coach Brad Burzynski said. “We graduated every defender last year – we have one returning defender.”
Armijo has followed a similar game plan all season, to solid results.
“What’s working for us is building a lead and then knowing that they’re going to add players to the midfield and knowing how to go ahead and attack that,” said Burzynski. “We have the best goalie that I’ve ever coached and the best goalie in league by far in goal, so what we know is, our defenders are going to hold tight.”
Burzynski credited his defense with preserving the win and was especially impressed because none of his defenders Wednesday played at the varsity level last year.
“Our defenders are going to do everything that they need to do to keep us in the lead and hold that lead,” Burzynski said. “It’s like a great bullpen, and that’s what we’ve got.”
Armijo hosts Vintage at 7:15 p.m. Monday and wraps the regular season at Rodriguez on Wednesday.
“It’s coming down to this game on Monday, and if we can take care of business, that’s a league championship,” Burzynski said.
Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.