The Sunnyside Grizzly boys soccer team broke out of a scoring slump in a big way this past Saturday in a 6-3 home win over rival West Valley.
It was actually the Rams that struck first, though, scoring in the first minute of play.
Back came the Grizzlies with three goals in a span of 26 minutes.
The surge started in the 16th minute when Sunnyside's Jesus Gudino scored on an assist by Sergio Licona. "After we got scored on our players got aggressive in fighting for the ball," said Grizzly Coach Juan Pineda.
Licona gave Sunnyside the lead five minutes later by scoring on a penalty kick to make it 2-1.
Six minutes after that Licona and Gudino teamed up again, as Licona attempted a goal that was blocked and bounced to Gudino, who booted the ball into the goal.
Trailing 3-1, West Valley then began taking chances to get back into the game. The move paid off initially as the Rams filled the space in front of the Sunnyside goal and scored two goals in a span of three minutes.
That knotted the contest at 3-3, but Pineda said the Ram strategy had consequences.
"When your opponents have to look for the goal, we can counterattack their move," he said. "They took a risk and scored, but in turn we scored several more."
The Grizzlies indeed counterattacked and essentially put the match out of reach with two goals in the last three minutes of play in the first half.
Sunnyside's Nick Steckler scored what proved to be the winning goal in the 37th minute when he headed the ball into the net off an assist by Alfredo Gomez.
Steckler had a hand in the next Grizzly goal two minutes later when he assisted on a goal by Isaac Meza.
"This was the most beautiful goal of the day," Pineda said of Meza's score. "He hit the ball with perfection, with the sweet spot." The coach added, "We call it a Ronaldo-style kick (named for the Brazilian soccer great)."
That put Sunnyside up 5-3 at the half.
In the second 40-minute stanza, Sunnyside held more defenders in the back to protect against another Ram attack.
Meanwhile, the Grizzly forwards were able to press the attack in the West Valley side of the field for most of the second half.
"We controlled the game, we had a number of opportunities to score," said Pineda.
The Grizzlies connected on one such opportunity in the 65th minute when Gomez beat a defender and scored on an assist by Luis Garcia.
Garcia, who also plays keeper for the Grizzlies, was playing elsewhere on the field because sophomore keeper Ediberto Garcia was newly eligible.
Garcia recorded four saves on the day and a second Sunnyside keeper, Max Ramos, had one save.
For the game, Sunnyside outshot West Valley 15 to 8.
"West Valley has always been a solid team," Pineda said of the Rams. "Our kids were special today, they realized playing West Valley required us to come out 100 percent."
Sunnyside (2-3, 3-3-1) travels to Pasco on Tuesday and will look to build on the momentum from Saturday's big win.
Pineda said Saturday's contest was a season-changing moment.
"This is very significant for our program, we needed a challenge like this to grow," he said. "I saw our team grow a lot tactically and mentally and it will stay with us for the rest of the season."