Boys soccer: Missing a key starter, St. Joseph opens playoffs with 4-0 win
OGDEN — All season, St. Joseph Catholic High’s boys soccer team has thought of a state championship as its ultimate goal.
Wednesday, the No. 3-seeded Jayhawks took their first step in the postseason by beating American Preparatory Academy-West Valley 4-0 in a foul-filled, second-round, 2A state tournament game.
St. Joseph won despite a disjointed passing performance and with arguably their best midfielder, Jonathan Ramirez (15 goals, 11 assists), on the bench with an ankle injury.
“I think it played a huge role into the game, but we stayed consistent, we played strong and we got through it. Pretty happy with the win,” senior defender Armando Escobedo said.
Both first-half goals came from Edward Ramirez, both pinpointed from about 35 yards away and both benefitting from goalkeeper error.
APA-West Valley ran a high press early in the game, contributing to some hasty clearances by St. Joseph defenders. One rushed pass by the Jayhawks nearly resulted in a goal and an APA lead, but Keaton Gill made a clearance off the line to preserve the 0-0 deadlock.
Maybe 30 seconds later, Ramirez’s deep free-kick sailed into the top, right corner of the goal despite the keeper’s best efforts for a 1-0 St. Joseph lead.
The second goal came after an APA defender cleared the ball deep to Ramirez, who was wide open and shot. APA’s keeper backpedaled and got fingertips to the ball, but it bounced into the goal anyway.
Ramirez hit another long free kick in the 57th minute, perfectly on Escobedo’s head at the back post for a 3-0 lead.
It was a just reward for Escobedo, a Colorado State-Pueblo signee, who spent most of the day cleaning up defensively.
Escobedo then provided the pass for the fourth goal, which Gill scored from inside the box in the 79th minute.
“We’re just trying to stay united. We’ve had our ups and downs on and off the field, but we always find a way to unite during games and find our way through. I think that’s the biggest thing for us right now,” Escobedo said.
The Jayhawks have probably made more waves in 2A for their high-scoring attack, which now has 100 goals in 15 games (discounting a 26-0 win against North Summit, the team would still average 5.3 goals per game).
Brazilian freshman Daniel Fontes has a state-leading 27 goals — he nearly had two against APA — with eight assists. Edward Ramirez now has 17 goals and a team-high 16 assists.
St. Joseph might be better defensively, as it’s now allowed seven goals in 15 games, one of the best per-game marks in the state. It also helps that SJC can play the possession game, too, therefore limiting chances for the other team.
That’s where the injured Jonathan Ramirez, as SJC head coach Paulo Franco said, is at his best: distributing the ball, keeping the ball and transitioning the team between defense and attack.
“He’s kind of the boss there in the middle,” Franco said.
The win sets up a home quarterfinal at 1 p.m. Saturday against either No. 6 Waterford or No. 11 Beaver.
If it’s Waterford, it’ll be the third meeting between the teams this year, as well as a rematch of last year’s state semifinal that the Jayhawks lost.