Trailing by two goals through 46 minutes of play, Patterson junior Osvaldo Barbosa scored a pair of goals in about three minutes to tie the match before senior Kiki Gonzalez’s corner kick found the foot of sophomore Andres Herrera, who booted the ball to the back of the net using his right instep, for the go-ahead score.
“We didn’t like how we played in the first half of the game,” Barbosa said. “We know how important every game is, and we decided that we had to step up our play.”
Tuesday’s win followed on the heels of Patterson’s 5-0 road decision over Los Banos High on Oct. 11 and kept the Tigers in a tie for first-place with Central Valley High of Ceres in the Western Athletic Conference standings, with two matches remaining in the regular season.
Patterson coach Greg Hartsell said the Tigers (8-1-1 WAC) never panicked during their rough stretch against Ceres on Tuesday.
“Losing or tying was not an option for us,” Hartsell said. “We responded in the second half and really put the pressure on (Ceres’) defense. After that, we were effective and were able to score quickly.”
Fortunately for the Tigers, they have firepower like few other squads in the region, enough to overcome such a hole and take control.
“After (the Bulldogs) scored their second goal, we didn’t put our heads down,” Hartsell said. “We all knew what this game meant to our season.”
Leading 1-0 at halftime, Ceres again instigated a scoring drive early in the second half, passing down the right side of the box. The hard, low, right-footed cross banked up a Bulldog player’s cleat and floated in delicately over Patterson goalkeeper Jose Martinez for a two-goal advantage.
“We knew that we needed to start to play together,” said Patterson junior Israel Sotelo. “When we do that, we’re a different team.”
Barbosa’s first goal put Patterson on the scoreboard near the 52nd-minute mark, when he coolly stroked the ball through the legs of a defender and past Ceres’ goalkeeper to trim the deficit to 2-1.
“As soon as we put that first goal in, you could feel momentum start to shift,” Hartsell said.
Again on the attack, Barbosa needed only about three minutes more to provide the equalizer, as he got behind defenders and headed the ball to the back of the net.
The Tigers scored the go-ahead goal with just under nine minutes to play.
Gonzalez located the right cleat of Herrera, who pushed up during the chaos of the corner kick. With a leap, and a flick of the foot, the ball traveled over the outstretched left arm of the Bulldogs keeper and into the netting on the right far post.
Sotelo continued the Tigers’ turnaround with a goal in the 76th minute.
As a loose ball fell to him, the midfielder swiveled and shot the ball from about 45 yards out. His effort caught the Ceres keeper off his line, and he could only wave at the ball as it sailed into the goal.
“I saw the ball, and I didn’t want to let it bounce,” Sotelo said. “I took the shot, and fortunately, it went in.”
In the 78th minute, Gonzalez lined up another left-corner kick.
With the match already in hand, his teammates on the bench were shouting words of encouragement, including one pointed comment to “put it on the keeper.” Gonzalez proceeded to do just that. He lofted a left-footed, high-arcing kick toward the crease. It bent toward the goal, forcing the Bulldogs keeper to try to punch it away. But he failed and the ball squirted in.
When the final whistle sounded, the Tigers erupted in jubilation.
“When the season started, I thought that we had talent, but I figured we were young,” Hartsell said. “Well, these guys are playing way above their potential. I’m proud of all of them tonight.”
Patterson continues its season at 5:30 p.m. today, Oct. 18, when the team travels to face Modesto’s Central Catholic High.
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or email@example.com.