Tuesday night's clash between the Sunnyside High School boys soccer team and visiting Hanford lived up to the billing. But the one thing that will stick out about the game is how content the Grizzlies seemed on the field at times.
Sunnyside fell from the ranks of the undefeated following last night's 3-2 overtime loss to an outstanding Hanford group.
"I thought we played a really good game," said Sunnyside Coach Juan Pineda.
There were times, though, in yesterday's game where Sunnyside just seemed happy to be out on the field. Numerous times during the game the Grizzlies would watch a ball float by or back track on the defensive side. The usual potent attack of the Grizzlies just wasn't there, as Sunnyside had a difficult time developing runs at the Falcons.
Hanford came out of the gates firing, attacking the young Sunnyside defense.
"They came really strong to put us on the wall," Pineda explained. "That was a good tactic."
Hanford got on the board first in the seventh minute when a Falcon player placed a beautiful shot just to the opposite side of Sunnyside's keeper, Sam Wise.
"They caught us flat," said Pineda of the goal.
The Grizzlies finally started to gain a rhythm about midway through the first half. Sunnyside started the game out playing against a brisk wind, but what really gave the Grizzlies fits was the defense set up by the Falcons. Hanford would constantly keep a wall of defenders back on Sunnyside's forwards. The number of defenders in the backfield at any one time would range from three to five, constantly pressuring Sunnyside's forwards when they received the ball.
The Grizzlies were finally able to break through the wall by spreading out Hanford. The payoff for the Grizziles ended up being when Sunnyside's marquee player, Junior Garcia, found the back of the net off an assist from Alex Aguilar.
The Falcons then took advantage of the less than experienced defense of the Grizzlies to score again at the 37th minute. Sunnyside failed to clear a ball when Wise came out of the box and Hanford was able to dribble the ball over his head for the goal.
"We didn't clear the ball in time," said Pineda.
The Grizzlies developed a stronger attack in the second half, playing with the wind. But Sunnyside still had moments when the Grizzlies just would wait for things to happen.
Garcia scored the final goal for Sunnyside with about 10 minutes left to go in regulation. After Hanford keeper Drew Curry dropped the ball off a corner kick he fielded, the Grizzlies then put the ball in the back of the net for the goal.
Despite giving up the game-tying goal, Curry had some outstanding saves in the last few minutes of regulation, as the Grizzlies unleashed on the senior Falcon keeper.
Some mistakes defending the ball in overtime cost the Grizzlies. Hanford was able to dribble a shot in about two minutes into the extra session to grab the win and move to the top of the Mid-Valley rankings.
Hanford out shot Sunnyside 15 to 13 on goal. Both Wise and Curry had eight saves apiece in the box for the Grizzlies and the Falcons, respectively.
The Grizzlies missed some great scoring opportunities. Sunnyside had two shots on goal midway through the first half that just missed. Sunnyside had another golden opportunity pass by with about 25 minutes to go in the game. A shot by the Grizzlies hit the post and bounced back out, Sunnyside then kicked the ball wide and missed a good shot.
Pineda said it was a good game for his team to experience. He said his players got off to a slow start and it was only a series of minor errors that cost the Grizzlies some goals.
Pineda did make mention of his young defense, but said playing in a game of this caliber will only help.
"This close one is going to make us stronger," said Pineda.
One thing that was missing in last night's game was Sunnyside's usually crisp ball movement. But Pineda credits that to the caliber of team the Grizzlies were playing.
But, there were a couple of things that Pineda was not happy with following yesterday's game. The Grizzly coach felt his team shouldn't have let Hanford come out and establish the tempo of the game.
"Had we started the game different, " said Pineda, "the outcome would have probably been different."
Pineda would have also liked to seen his team stay focused for the entire game. Pineda also felt the Grizzlies should have done a better job of following through on shots, especially with rebounds.
"It doesn't taste like a loss," said Pineda. "I have confidence we can do better the next game (against Hanford)."
The Grizzlies (3-1, 5-1) will host East Valley this Thursday in a non-league game.