The Rancho Cotate Cougars played like a whole new team in their victory over their rivals the Cardinal Newman Cardinals, 9-5, last Wednesday, April 10th in a league game held at Rancho Cotate High School.
A large portion of the thanks for the change goes to assistant coaches, Robert Buckley and Jerry Kumre, who stepped up their responsibilities after the departure of Cougar Head Coach, Tory Hotaling. It’s not an easy thing to take charge of a team of high school boys in the middle of a 2-11 season, but that’s exactly what Buckley and Kumre managed to do.
Their secret? Aggression.
“That was the one word we keyed on. Be aggressive,” Kumre said. “Even if they’re not going to dodge, if they’re going to fake dodge, be aggressive with it. Make them have to move. That’s what happened. We got their defense to move and it got them out of sync.”
But for much of the first quarter it looked like that might not be enough. The last time the Cougars clashed with the Cardinals they lost 7-4, and the memory of that encounter hung over Rancho’s stadium like a specter. Worse still, the Cardinals were a better team, a faster team, one unshackled by lack of practice born from weeks of rain. The extra experience and the Cougars’ hesitancy let the Cardinals push forward and secure themselves a three point lead.
The initial edge might have been enough to shatter the Cougars’ fragile morale if it weren’t for the tireless efforts of their goalkeeper, Raymond Nixon.
In a scene that repeated itself a dozen times throughout the game, Cardinals’ captain, Patrick Cvitanovic, gained the ball around midfield and pushed deep in Cougar territory. The Cougars swarmed around the net in an effort to screen the goal, but the Cardinals were slippery. They moved around the back and edged into firing position, throwing off a quick shot.
Nixon’s net moved in a flash. He took back possession and stopped the Cardinals from extending their lead.
“We definitely had more energy [this game],” Nixon said. “We were yelling at each other, we were hyping each other up before the game. 3:30 rolled around and we were all walking out to the parking lot saying, ‘Game day, boys. Let’s go.’”
If the first quarter belonged to the Cardinals then the second was the Cougars’.
They started their rally off when their Kai Honda intercepted the ball. He passed to his teammate, Dylan Barella, who circled around the back of the net and flung it in, landing the Cougars their first point of the game. Kieran Keaney followed that goal up a few minutes later with shot from midfield, and then Tyler Law tied up the game.
And that was only the start. All told, the Cougars managed seven points in the second quarter. For the rest of the game they fell back into a holding pattern. The Cardinals tried to catch back up in the third and fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to match the Cougars’ now substantial lead.
“The kids understand that adversity can make you or break you,” Kumre said. “In this case they took the things that have gone on this year (...) and found a way to bond together. Tonight is the rewards of the way that they bonded together as a group.”
Justin-Sienna is the Cougars’ next opponent. The game will take place at Rancho Cotate Stadium on April 22nd. Justin-Sienna is currently 9-3 for the season and ranked 910th nationally.