Last season, the Montezuma-Cortez High School boys’ soccer team did not score their seventh goal until their ninth game of the season. This season, it took the Panthers a mere 68 minutes to find the back of the net for the seventh time.
While it is still too early to say that Panther soccer has entered a new era, the team’s 7-0 dismantlement of the Bayfield Bobcats on Sept. 3 was certainly a step in the right direction.
Kicking off the season in style, the Panthers wasted little time before getting on the scoreboard. After gaining control of the ball near midfield, midfielder Andrew Laymon broke down the left side as Bayfield defenders nipped at his heels. Once near the box, Laymon fired a perfect crossing pass to Taren Lanier, who shot the ball past Bayfield goalie Ben Young to put the Panthers ahead 1-0 in the fourth minute.
For the next 14 minutes, the Panthers continued to push the pace, and after a near miss by Laymon on a breakaway, MCHS struck again. Gaining control of the ball on the Panthers’ side of midfield, Giuseppe Privitera placed a beautiful pass onto the right foot of Jaron Carver inside the box. With little resistance from the Bayfield defense, Carver easily chipped the ball past Young for a 2-0 lead.
Continuing to apply pressure in the in the 25th minute, the Panthers were awarded a corner kick and took full advantage. With Privitera breaking towards the ball, Laymon fired a drive into the box, Privitera elevated, got his head on the ball and redirected it into the right side of the net. Just like that, the Panthers had a 3-0 lead.
After Bayfield replaced their starting goalie, Young, with freshman, Austin Bushell, the Panthers scored again after Privitera broke down the left side, slowed up and fired a beautiful left-footed cross to Carver. For the second time in the game, Carver found the back of the net and the Panthers had a 4-0 lead going into halftime.
Following the intermission, the Panthers continued to pour it on, beginning the second half with a 48th-minute goal by Manuel Martinez. After receiving a nice pass from Aron Engel, Martinez showed off nifty footwork, volleying the ball into the top right corner of the net for a 5-0 lead.
Brimming with confidence after Martinez’s goal, the Panthers started to get fancy. In the 50th minute, Lanier zeroed in on a ball chest high, elevated and fired a bicycle kick on goal from 25 yards out. Although Bushell was able to make the save, the kick brought the audience to its feet, while drawing smiles from coaches and teammates.
“(The ball) was right there, so I thought I would try it,” said Lanier of his kick. “I thought it would be cool.”
After Lanier’s kick and with the game solidly in-hand, the Panthers added goals by Privitera in the 62nd minute and Laymon in the 68th minute.
All in all, the 7-0 victory left a pleasant taste in the mouths of players and fans alike.
“I think overall, we did well,” said head coach Sean Fitzgerald. “We made good strides.”
“I feel like we did good,” added Engel. “We talked well, we moved the ball great and the defense had a great game. It was just an overall great way to start the season.”
With one victory now under their belts, the Panthers will look to continue their hot streak against Delta High School at home on Sept. 6.
Assessing where his team stands moving forward, Fitzgerald stated, “We still have a lot of improvement to make. When we play bigger teams, what we did today is not going to be good enough. For the first real game of the season though, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”