Joel Sanchez was the go-to guy for the Desert Pines boys soccer team in the regular season as he led the team in scoring with 36 goals.
On Thursday night in the Jaguars’ Class 3A Southern Region playoff opener against Del Sol, Sanchez once again led the way.
The junior forward scored three goals, including two in the first half, to lead the Jaguars to a 4-1 win over the Dragons at Bettye Wilson Park.
“It feels great, being able to help the team out and pass into the second round, which was our main goal tonight,” Sanchez said. “The key tonight was being united and playing as a team, and most of all, just defending as a team.”
The Jaguars (13-6) started the game aggressively attacking the Dragons. The pressure eventually paid off when Sanchez scored in the 26th minute. His second goal came 11 minutes later to push the Jaguars lead to 2-0 right before halftime.
“I thought we played well,” Desert Pines head Deborah Whitmoyer said. “We could have come out a little stronger, but we tend to answer back. We usually like to fight from the bottom.”
In the second half, Del Sol (10-3-2) came out attacking and eventually scored on Sergio Calderon’s goal at the 52nd minute, cutting the lead to 2-1.
However, the Jaguars quickly answered back when Erick Santillian scored in the 57th minute. Desert Pines then put the game away when Sanchez completed the hat trick off an assist from Bryan Vazquez-Rojas.
“(Joel) has been our top scorer all season,” Whitmoyer said. “And Erick has been our top assister. The two of them together have been a very good combination of our talent.”
Goalkeeper Justin Becerra also came up big for the Jaguars. His save off a penalty kick opportunity early in the second half kept the Dragons from claiming momentum. He just missed out on his sixth shutout of the season.
“He had some awesome saves. He’s done a really nice job this year,” Whitmoyer said.
The Jaguars, the No. 3 seed from the Sunset League, will play Sunrise Mountain (16-1), the top seed from the Sunset League, at 4 p.m. Friday at Bettye Wilson Park in the region semifinals The winner advances to the region championship game at 2 p.m. Saturday and qualifies for a berth in the Class 3A state semifinals.
Sunrise Mountain won the two previous matches against Desert Pines in the regular season, 4-2 and 6-0. Whitmoyer is hoping for a better showing Friday.
“I’m hoping to have success against Sunrise,” she said. “The first time we played them we were still a new team getting ourselves together. The second time we played them was our third game in a row. So we’re hoping with fresher legs that we’ll be stronger against them.”
Tech 2, Mojave 1 — At Bettye Wilson Park, Alan Lopez scored his second goal of the night two minutes into overtime to lift the Roadrunners over the Rattlers.
Tech (13-5-4) will meet Western (17-4-2) in the region semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday at Bettye Wilson Park. The winner automatically advances to the Class 3A state tournament.
Lopez drew first blood in the match, scoring to give Tech a 1-0 halftime lead.
Anibal Ponce scored on a free kick in the second half for the Rattlers (5-10-1).
Western 3, Chaparral 0 – At Bettye Wilson Park, Julio Flores scored two goals to lead the Warriors past the Cowboys.
Juan Estrada scored a second-half goal and assisted on both of Flores’ goals for Western, which led 1-0 at the half.
Hassan Mhina had five saves to record the shutout for the Warriors.
Chaparral finished 13-8-3.
Sunrise Mountain 5, Virgin Valley 1 – At Bettye Wilson Park, Felipe Lucero had two goals and an assist as the Miners rolled past the Bulldogs.
Bryan Martinez also scored two goals for Sunrise Mountain, which scored three first-half goals to take control of the game.
Angel Arreola added a goal for the Miners.
Luis Cruz-Sandoval scored for Virgin Valley (7-11-1).