El Dorado's Zach Kurzbard tries to head the ball away form an El Modena player in a boys soccer game Wednesday afternoon.
Go to Wednesday's Hot Shots slideshow to see all of the photos from this game.

Esperanza shows character in victory


ANAHEIM – Sometimes in soccer the player who can be most important in setting up a goal rarely touches the ball. 

Once again, Esperanza coach Conan Hawkins used senior midfielder Brady Johansen as more of a center back, and his pressure in the defensive third made it hard at times for the visiting Wildcats to maintain possession. It also gave the Aztecs some much-needed confidence.

Johansen’s intensity, Hawkins said, is what helped turn Wednesday’s Century League match in Esperanza’s favor, and the Aztecs rebounded from a heart-breaking loss last month to El Dorado with a 2-0 victory against Brea Olinda on Wednesday night.

“We needed this one,” Hawkins said. “It is a game like this that tells a lot about the character of the team.”

 Two weeks ago, the Aztecs (8-1-2, 2-1) entered Century League play as the No. 8 team in the county, but after just two games, the Aztecs fell out of the top 10 after losing at home to El Dorado in double over time. They have not been back in the county coaches’ poll since.

In that game against the Golden Hawks, though, Esperanza lacked the pressure that they put on the Wildcats (7-4-1, 0-1) on Wednesday night.

The Aztecs outshot the Wildcats, 10-5 for the game, and 5-1 in the second half, which is when the Aztecs scored both of their goals.

In the 43rd minute, Blake Russie took control of a rebound in the box and launched a shot into the top of the goal just underneath the crossbar.

Joey Biedebach set the final margin when he fired a shot across the face of the goal and inside the far post in the 65th minute.

Lance Halm and Augie Buoncuore, though, both tried to get the Wildcats back into the game.

Less than a minute after Biedebach gave Esperanza a two-goal lead, Halm got into the box behind the Aztecs’ back line, but before he could get off a shot, junior goalkeeper Brett Finney slid in front of Halm, knocking the ball off his foot.

Then with two minutes to go, Buoncuore drew a foul just outside the box and put a 20-yard free kick on frame, but Finney, who was making only his second appearance of the season for the Aztecs, knocked the ball away to record one of his two saves in the second half.    

 In other boys soccer:

In the Trinity League

No. 5 JSerra 3, Mater Dei 2: Ivan Canales finished with a goal and an assits to lead the host Lions (9-1-2, 1-0)

No. 3 Los Alamitos 3, Newport Harbor 1: Ozvaldo Yanez, Daniel Weis and Anthony Bussa each scored a goal for the host Griffins (12-2-4, 1-0)    

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