Franklin and Davis High — the two boys soccer teams that have spent the past few years at the top of the Delta Valley Conference standings — looked pretty even through the opening half Tuesday in their initial matchup of 2013.
But there was one major thing tipping the scales in the Blue Devils’ favor — D.J. Villegas, the brilliant junior who spent the past week competing at a U.S. junior national team camp.
Villegas scored once in the first half, then had his second goal and an assist after intermission to lead DHS to a 3-0 win in both teams’ DVC opener at Yudin Field.
“He had a really good national camp and came back yesterday and (Tuesday) he was just amazing,” said Devil coach Alex Park, who added that what makes Villegas so special is “his ball-handling, his vision of the game, his ability to beat people (one-on-one). He’s just able to understand the game better than most kids.”
Even though both squads had great chances in the first 15 minutes, the game remained scoreless until the 19-minute mark, when Davis junior Joe Rainer sent a sweet pass to charging senior Brian Birt.
When Birt retells the story at school tomorrow he’ll swear what happened next was a pass, as he dribbled in and sent a laser that bounced off the left post. The ricochet went right to Villegas, who sent it into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
“Brian dribbled, got that cross or shot off — I don’t know what it was — and it just fell to me,” Villegas explained.
As the first half wound down, the locals looked to be in control, taking eight shots on frame to just two for Franklin, but intermission came with the score still just 1-0.
That changed five minutes into the second period as DHS defender Rami Rashmwai dribbled the ball into the offensive zone and dropped it off for Villegas at the top of the penalty box. Villegas turned and fired a rocket past Wildcats’ goalie Anthony Serrano to put his team up 2-0.
“I’ve been focusing more on going to goal and putting them away and that’s what I did there,” Villegas said. “We were just trying to set that mind-set for the season; we wanna go hard every game. Preseason wasn’t the best so we wanted to come out and prove something (Tuesday) … get some momentum going.”
The momentum nearly swung back toward Franklin when the ‘Cats earned a penalty kick in the 57th minute, but Devil goalie Andres Olmedo wouldn’t let it happen. The senior dove to his left and stonewalled the FHS shooter, preserving Davis’ two-goal lead.
“Andres came up big on that PK and that was a turning point,” Park said. “If that had gone in, it would have been 2-1 and that’s a whole different game, so I’m glad he was able to dig that out of the back of the net.”
Ten minutes later, Villegas put the finishing touch on what was perhaps his best performance of the season. Dribbling up the middle, he slipped a pass through two Wildcats to sprinting teammate Pablo Guarnizo. The junior’s first touch sent the ball right at the goalie, but it was muffed and a persistent Guarnizo was there to convert the goal.
“Opening game, we wanted to get the jitters out; we wanted to make sure we started the season off with a win and not get scored on, so we did all those things,” Park said. ”We had so many people banged up — we only had four substitutes — so the biggest thing was to get a good win in the first game of league.”
Notes: With the win the Blue Devils improved to 7-3-2. … Park said his defense did a great job of communicating, which led to good organization. He praised the Perez brothers — junior Daniel and senior Alex — for their work in the back. … Villegas has spent the past three years as a part of the junior national team pool and is currently playing U18. The recent training camp he attended was in Los Angeles. … Franklin was called for three yellow cards, all in the second half, while Birt had the only one for Davis.
— Reach Chris Saur at email@example.com or 530-747-8049. View galleries or purchase prints of Blue Devil sports photos at http://davisenterprise.zenfolio.com.