West Valley Preps
After crossing paths in the Pacific Northwest, Garfield Scott and Johnathan Rea ended up coaching schools in the Dysart Unified School District and decided to start an annual rivalry game for a cup.
The first meeting between the Dysart and Valley Vista boys teams on Dec. 1, 2015 was the start of a magical season for the Demons. Dysart won 1-0 and would sweep through 14 of the next 15 games before falling to Buckeye in the Division IV semifinals.
Two years later, both teams were well into the season. But the emphatic 4-0 Valley Vista win for the Monsoon’s first cup in the series also served as the team’s coming out party.
“It means a lot. Players from both schools go to the same park and play each other,” senior Rafa Gutierrez said. “Everyone knows everyone. Last year and the year before that they beat us. This year, they were confident they had us again but we’ve had the better start so I was pretty sure we were going to get this.”
Valley Vista (8-2, 6-1 regular season) scored a pair of goals on well-built attacks and two more on Dysart (3-6, 2-4) giveaways in its own end.
Freshman Angel Balderrama was one of the opportunistic Monsoon player, taking a ricochet in the box in the 19th minute and sending it home for the 1-0 lead.
Not quite nine minutes later, senior Julio Ramon drilled shot from 20 yards out to double the lead.
“I think from the practices they started to see (they could play well) for themselves,” Scott said. “They’ve been playing a while and played club. So they can see they have something here. We have structure, as far as the formation, but I also want to give them some leeway to be creative.”
Senior Eliseo Hernandez Gonzalez was only too happy to take advantage of a Dysart giveaway in the penalty area and scoring easily in the 47th minute.
Rea’s third team already faced wholesale lineup changes and he said he thought this season might be a rebuilding one. Then, eight Demons players werredeclared academically ineligible Monday after the latest grade update.
“I had a fear we might be rebuilding. We have a lot of seniors this year, but a lot didn’t play varsity last year. We’re fairly inexperienced,” Rea said. “I think we played good soccer most of the time, but we made mental errors.”
Senior Oliver Moya struck for the fourth goal after a nice piece of skill to create space.
In an otherwise largely clean match, Dysart junior Hassan Razzouki was fouled and shoved the Valley Vista player twice, drawing a red card.
Both teams now enter region play, and while fans mostly think of the 6A Southwest and 4A Black Canyon as weak football regions, the tables are turned in soccer.
Rea said the goal is still to improve and win the region, though that would require beating 4A title contenders Scottsdale Coronado and Cortez. Beyond that he want the team to focus on character, academics and soccer.
The second of those three legs let the Demons down Monday, as eight players were academically ineligible after a recent grade check.
“We played JV players and they played fine. Our goal is that they would hear that message before (grading periods end). Beyond that I’m hoping we develop chemistry as a team. And I’m really looking for next year’s team to be a strong team. When certain players drop off, you have to stop building again,” Rea said.
Meanwhile, Monsoon soccer is changing its goals seemingly by the game. Scott coached many of these players two years ago, then stepped away last season.
Valley Vista’s core of nine seniors is familiar with this coach and has taken to his increased structure while appreciating the opportunity to freelance.
Monsoon soccer now takes a winter break. Once that ends, the state will quickly have a chance to figure out how good Valley Vista is.
Copper Canyon and Tolleson are the two main obstacles to a surprise region title, and those are Valley Vista’s first two games in January.
“That’s the good thing about goal setting. If you accomplish something you can always revisit,” Scott said. “I’m pretty sure we’re going to talk about that again. I’m very proud of what they’ve accomplished.”