DESERT HOT SPRINGS
The boys’ soccer team at Desert Mirage High School entered this season having just lost more than a dozen seniors from a team that won back-to-back De Anza League titles.
Among that group was the program’s all-time leading scorer, Jimmie Villalobos, who provided 40 percent of the team’s offense (28 goals) last season.
But head coach Jorge Chavez wasn’t having that as an excuse, and after a 2-0 win Friday at Desert Hot Springs, the only coach the school has ever known again has his squad in position to claim another league.
“Us players, we have been really committed, and that’s been the key,” senior midfielder Luis Alvarado said. “We work hard, we train hard and we just want to take advantage of the opportunity we have.”
The Rams controlled the ball from the outset, penetrating the Golden Eagles’ territory often. They moved the ball around the field with fluidity, spreading the ball to take the focus off any individual.
The constant movement eventually produced some soft spots in the defense and Desert Mirage (9-6-2, 4-1 De Anza) promptly took advantage. Alvarado slipped the ball past the DHS goalie for the first goal of the game eight minutes in.
The Golden Eagles (6-10-2, 2-3) had opportunities on their end, but couldn’t manage to convert.
It was the second game this week where they failed to find the back of the net. Conversely, the Rams have only allowed a single goal in their last four matches.
Just before the intermission, Alvarado converted on a header for his second goal of the game to give the Rams a two-goal advantage.
As a result, they’ve won four in a row after showing a lack of consistency early in the season.
“I’m proud of the kids,” Chavez said. “They are responding well and playing hard. We played well tonight.”
In spite of so many losses from last year’s team, the Rams have positioned themselves well with the win. They are now tied for first in the league with Shadow Hills, a team they face at home on Feb. 14.
It’s one of three matches Desert Mirage has remaining on the schedule. Desert Mirage defeated the Knights, 1-0, on Jan. 22, and may need to do it again to win the league.
Still, with Friday’s win, it puts them in a position few thought was possible with the loss of so many key players. How this team would respond with the loss of 15 seniors and a player like Villalobos was the top question surrounding this team entering the season.
Two months later, those questions have dissipated. This year’s team is on a quest to make its own mark.
“Jimmie is a talented player,” Alvarado said. “We admire him. But we just believe in ourselves now.”