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A week earlier, the St. Michael’s Horsemen took a big lead at the half over the Los Alamos Hilltoppers in a boys soccer contest.
It was a lead the Horsemen very nearly squandered.
The Hilltoppers didn’t want that to happen to them Tuesday.
Los Alamos jumped out to an unexpected 3-0 lead in the first half over the dangerous Albuquerque Academy Chargers at Sullivan Field, taking advantage of the Chargers’ defensive struggles to clear the ball.
And while Academy made the comeback it was expected to make, Los Alamos’ offense played aggressive enough and the defense well enough throughout the balance of the game to hold on, winning 5-3 in a critical nondistrict game.
Los Alamos wasted no time in taking control of the game. Less than two minutes in the Hilltoppers tallied their first goal and about three minutes later, they earned their second goal.
In their previous two games at the Academy Invitational this past weekend, the Hilltoppers scored a combined eight goals in two wins.
“I think we’re starting to work the ball together,” Los Alamos striker Daniel Rodriguez said. “We’re getting used to each other, finally.”
Los Alamos has run much of its offense this season through star midfielder Jason Reagor, and he hasn’t disappointed. He certainly didn’t disappoint Tuesday, picking up three assists, two coming on Los Alamos’ two quick scores to open the contest.
Academy, which has been a marquee franchise in New Mexico prep soccer for about as long as prep soccer has been around, has been spotty on defense this season, having given up three goals or more three times in eight outings going into Tuesday, although it has also pitched two shutouts so far.
But in the second minute, Reagor found the handle on a long pass from the defense and rolled a quick grounder to Rodriguez cutting in diagonally from the left side. Rodriguez put a little move on Academy goalkeeper Xavier Moya and put a line drive inside the far post for the first score.
The goal was Rodriguez’s first of the season, but wouldn’t be his last of Tuesday’s game. With Academy threatening to get back into the contest late, Rodriguez’s second goal, again cutting in from the wing at the 73-minute mark, iced the contest for the Los Alamos.
The five goals allowed by the Chargers were a season high.
In the fifth minute, Dion Obermeyer scored his first of two goals on the game, mirroring the first goal scored by Rodriguez, with Obermeyer cutting in from the right side and Reagor finding him near the goal mouth.
The second goal had the Charger defense shell-shocked and Los Alamos would take advantage just a few minutes later.
“We had them going,” Hilltopper head coach Evan Gartz said. “We split the defense so many times. Jason had a beautiful game. Daniel Rodriguez had an excellent game with two goals, Dion had two goals. They knew where to be and what to do when they got the ball.”
Keeping pressure on the reeling Academy defense, Los Alamos continued to set itself up with some good scoring chances throughout the early part of the second half. Reagor just went wide left after Matthew Leslie stole a ball from the Charger defense and centered the ball to him in the 10th minute, then Rodriguez stole a back-pass from Moya, who couldn’t find the handle, but couldn’t get a shot off and had no one to dish off to in the 14th minute.
Moya would again have trouble clearing a ball in the 20th minute, kicking the ball straight to a pressuring Obermeyer. Obermeyer went right around Moya and put the ball into the upper right to give Los Alamos its commanding lead.
“It was our game plan to be very offensive-minded,” Gartz said. “We worked hard to get their defense on their heels and we did. We had to continue to take it at them.”
Academy would score in the 26th minute to stay alive. Chance Nicol received a well-placed cross from Darren McAfee and went to the near post, beating Los Alamos goalkeeper Davis Anson for Academy’s first score.
After getting off just two shots in the first 20 minutes Tuesday, the Chargers were able to start putting their offense together. They would fire off eight shots in the first half and 16 for the contest, but only managed to put five of those on-goal.
Los Alamos finished with 17 shots.
Andy Thoma was on the receiving end of Reagor’s third assist of the afternoon, with Los Alamos beating Academy in transition for the third time in the contest. Reagor rolled a pass laterally to Thoma, who took one dribble then drilled a shot into the top-right corner.
Thoma’s goal gave the Hilltoppers a 4-2 edge.
Academy (4-5) would make a furious offensive push at the end of the game, but Anson would stop its best shot of the second half, a 12-yard line drive from Nicol that he speared in the 78th minute.
“It’s definitely a big win because what matters is our games against Academy and St. Pius,” Rodriguez said. “They’re going to be the top teams when we get to state...this shows we can beat them, but the next time we play, we can’t take them lightly.”