BSoc: Dons recover from early deficit, win at DP

Santa Barbara High has struggled over the years when it plays a boys soccer match at Dos Pueblos.

So, when the Dons fell behind 1-0 in the third minute of Tuesday’s Channel League opener, it appeared they were in for another tough night on the crowned, bumpy and narrow pitch.

“This is by far my least favorite place to come to,” Santa Barbara coach Todd Heil said.

Heil’s Santa Barbara squad went out and made sure history wouldn’t repeat itself. The Dons played solid defense after giving up the early goal and got goals from Reggie Gonzalez and Pepe Barron to come away with a 2-1 victory in a battle of CIF Division 1 top-10 teams.

Brian Palma gave Dos Pueblos a 1-0 lead in the third minute.

Brian Palma gave Dos Pueblos a 1-0 lead in the third minute.

Eighth-ranked Santa Barbara improves to 12-4-1 on the season while No. 7 Dos Pueblos is now 12-3-1.

“It’s big,” Heil said of winning at DP. “It’s big, especially when you start league off with a win and three points at the same time against a team that’s in CIF ranked higher than us and has been playing really well. They played well tonight, as well. It’s a big win for us.”

Dos Pueblos took advantage of a slow reacting Santa Barbara defense to take a 1-0 lead in the third minute. Forward Manny Nwosu stormed down the left wing before a Santa Barbara defender raced over to knock the ball out of bounds. On the ensuing throw in, Lalo Arce laid the ball back to Nwosu whose cross was deflected into the air. Nathan Garcia headed the ball ahead to a charging Brian Palma, who beat the goalkeeper to the ball and scored
into an empty net.

“It was a great start for us,” DP coach Matt York said. “We definitely felt like we charged out in front and that’s what you want to do against a strong Dons team. They always present a good team and a good challenge. They’re a little younger this year, so we thought, hopefully, if we can get on them a bit early maybe we could ride some momentum and build confidence and not allow them to get that confidence and that swagger that they have for a good reason, because they’re a good squad.”

DP’s early goal stirred up flashbacks of past struggles by his teams at O’Leary Stadium.

“It’s tough to be down, but it’s even worse to be down in a place you know in the back of your head is a tough place to play and against a team that’s playing well,” Heil said. “A lot goes to our boys for not backing down.”

The goal seemed to wake up Santa Barbara. The Dons got their possession game going and tightened their defense in the midfield and in the back.

“I thought it was the best it’s been on this field in a couple of years,” said Heil of the Dons’ ability to possess the ball.

Santa Barbara worked the ball into the attacking third of the field and Jorge Garcia-Torres hit a through ball into the box that DP cleared out of bounds. Long-throw weapon Jumoke Hutton flung the ball to the top of the 6-yard box, where Gonzalez went up and headed it off the shoulder of a DP defender and into the net for the tying goal in the 25th minute.

“That Jumoke guy, his throw-ins are lights out,” said York. “It’s a great weapon, and he’s a great kid and a great player. We’ve seen him for years and I’ll be glad to see him go.”

Barron gave the Dons a 2-1 lead in the 65th minute. A corner kick was cleared out to Santa Barbara’s Kyle Marcotte and he popped it back toward the near post. Barron broke free on a diagonal run, leaped and chested the ball past the goalkeeper for the game-winner and his team-leading 12th goal of the season.

Santa Barbara got good defensive efforts from Carlos Hernandez and Hutton in the back and Freddy Pacheco on the right wing.

Dos Pueblos created some good chances to score the tying goal, but the Chargers couldn’t come up with a finishing touch.

“We’ll get there,” York said of the finishing. “We’re a good team and we’ve been a good team. And we just didn’t have all the finishing we needed tonight.”