The Rancho Cotate Cougars crushed the Latino College Preparatory Academy Golden Eagles, 15-0, last Sat., April 20 in a match held at Rancho Cotate High School.
Saturday’s shutout was a situation the Cougars were intimately familiar, only from the opposite side. They’ve had a difficult year so far with 3-6 in league thanks to a combination of low enrollment numbers, young players and instability in the coaching staff. Saturday’s game was a welcome change of pace for the beleaguered team, even if it didn’t technically count for their standing. That’s because the two teams were from entirely different leagues.
Rancho Cotate belongs to the North Coast Section Vine Valley Lacrosse League and the Golden Eagles make their home in the Independent Lacrosse League—a different division made up of much smaller schools. The larger recruitment pool and the presence of the Rancho Lacrosse Club to lay the foundation for their players meant that the Cougars had a significant advantage going in.
“We’ve been on the other end of those [kinds of games],” Cougar assistant coach, Jerry Kumre, said. “I’m just proud of my boys for hustling. They played. They played through the whistle. They worked the offense, they worked the defense and it was just a chance for us to go out and have a little fun on a Saturday.”
Still, though the Cougars were by far the favored side, the game provided both teams a chance to earn some much needed experience. All of the Cougars’ bench eventually made its way onto the field, even some who haven’t had a chance to shine thanks to Rancho’s difficulty in fielding a junior varsity team this year. Sophomore Chase Little was one such name.
Late in the third quarter, Little gave the crowd a small taste of what to expect when he’s grown enough to join varsity proper next year. One of his teammates intercepted the ball off a pass by the Golden Eagles goalie, who then chucked it to Little. Little caught the ball and plunged into the Eagles’ churning defensive formation. They moved to stop him, but Little’s small size and nimble maneuvers pulled him close to the net.
With a flick of his wrist, he sent the ball spiraling over the goalie’s shoulder.
“It was a learning opportunity for me to get better and practice—and for the other kids too who don’t get a chance to play,” Little said. “Pre-season didn’t go too well. Then we started winning games. Now we’ve got four wins, so it’s been a rough season, but it’s pretty fun.”
Yet the second string can only enter the field if the first does its job. That can be a tricky proposition, but against the Eagles, the Cougars’ first string moved like a well-tuned machine. In a stunning display of professional level play, Cougar Garrett Hawkins stole the ball from a Golden Eagle defender. A quick pass later saw it in the net of his teammate Kieran Keaney, who then in turn sent the ball to Dylan Barella. Barella stood right outside the goal.
This all happened in the span less than three seconds. Before the Eagles could figure out where the play was, Barella flung the ball into the goal.
While for most teams the Cougars’ substantial lead would prove demoralizing, for the Golden Eagles’ coach, Marcos Guerrero, it was all part of the plan. Guerrero deliberately selected an opponent outside his school’s league in order to challenge his players.
“From the very beginning I tell the kids that they’re all equally worthless,” Guerrero said. “As bad as that sounds, I’m a former Marine. They taught me I wasn’t any better than the man to the left or right of me. That’s what I try to teach these kids. They have to work to improve themselves.”