MENDOTA – Goals were not hard to come by for the Mendota boys soccer team in its first taste of playoff action.
The No. 2-seeded Trojans scored two goals in the first 1:20 of a Class 1A Mendota Regional semifinal and went on to shut out No. 8 Riverdale 10-0.
“This last week of practice we’ve been really focusing,” MHS senior Emiliano Arteaga said. “We’ve been talking to each other in our group chat and saying, ‘We need to step it up.’ We’ve been doing good all season. I told the guys before the game, ‘We have to show everyone what we’re about.’ We’ve had a lot of hype in Mendota.
“We wanted to show how we can play. We didn’t play down (to our competition) today and we played aggressive. It’s our senior year and we’re all hungry to get a regional and maybe make get a sectional for the first time.”
After falling in last fall’s sectional final to Earlville, Mendota has a chance to make it back as the win against Riverdale advances the Trojans to the regional final at 4:30 p.m. Friday in Mendota against No. 3 DePue-Hall.
MHS coach Nick Myers hopes he can see the goals coming in different varieties similar to the Riverdale match.
“That’s one of the good things about this team,” Myers said. “If you check out the paper, you see Emiliano. Yahir (Diaz) and Ivan (Figueroa) scoring all of the goals, but it’s not because they’re the only three that I have who can score. I have multiple weapons to score the ball.
“Jasiel (Watson), as a freshman, is close to 10 goals. All of my midfielders and my center backs can take it up and strike, too. The versatility of this team makes it hard to game plan against us. You can game plan to stop Emiliano and Yahir, but I have other options who can score for us.”
Arteaga, Diaz and Watson scored two goals apiece, while Jose Ruiz, Johnathan Cortez, Ivan Figueora and Abraham Guzman each found the back of the net.
Guzman, a senior, is excited to be in his third regional final.
“We’re really strong on offense. We do a lot of shooting drills during practice. Everyone is a good shooter,” Guzman said. “We won regional titles my freshman year and my junior year. When we play (DePue-Hall), we’re going to play strong and stay focused. We’ll do the best that we can.”
No. 3 DePue-Hall is Mendota’s opponent in the final after the Little Giants defeated No. 5 Alleman 4-0 in Friday’s second semifinal.
Bryan Fuentes scored two goals and had an assist to lead the Little Giants.
Mauricio Ruiz scored a pair of goals, while Jackson Heiden recorded two assists.
Myers understands it’s the playoffs and that his team can always improve.
“With Riverdale being an eight seed, you’re getting a team that just won the play-in game so they have a little bit of confidence going,” Myers said. “One goal that we set coming into the regional was to get out of the regional with two shutouts. We have had a tendency to give up a goal late in games. We always give up one at the end and our scores are 4-1, 5-1 or 6-1. We always fall asleep in the back. We talked a lot about finishing games and taking care of business in the back. It was nice to see us communicate and execute a shutout.
“It’s going to be a good game (against D-H). We talked about it at halftime that we’ll have to step up the intensity a little bit. Practice makes perfect, but we’ll need more intensity on Friday than we had today to come away with a regional championship. It will not be an easy game. I think quite a few of our kids are familiar with the DePue kids.”
The players know they have to step up.
Especially if they want to win Mendota’s first boys soccer sectional.
“It’s one step at a time. Obviously, we’re looking at the big picture of a sectional title,” Arteaga said. “But, we have to go step by step. Hopefully, we can win a regional at home and maybe go to Peoria and surprise a couple of teams for a sectional title.”