Boys soccer: LA nabs big win at home Friday

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By Mike Cote

David Bjorklund has had to deal with a couple of tall orders last week.

Fortunately for the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys soccer team, he filled them about as well as they could be filled.

Bjorklund, a senior fullback for Los Alamos, has been marked-up with two of the most talented forwards in Class AAAA, Patrick Pacheco of Taos Tuesday and Pablo Quintana of Piedra Vista Friday.

And although it’s hard to shut both down indefinitely, both their chances were limited throughout 160 minutes of soccer. The result was two huge wins for the Hilltoppers.

Meanwhile, midfielder Jason Reagor scored a pair of goals and Jon Thoma added a late insurance goal as the Hilltoppers earned an important nondistrict win over Piedra Vista’s Panthers.

Piedra Vista’s powerful offense was limited to just nine shots Friday, as Los Alamos won 3-0 at Sullivan Field.

“Just like Pat, we had to put a man on him,” Bjorklund said of Quintana, who went into Friday’s game as the top scorer in AAAA. “I marked him most of the time and they didn’t pass to him because he was a marked man.”

More than just having Quintana marked, Los Alamos head coach Evan Gartz said Bjorklund is an excellent 1-on-1 defender that knows how to slow down teams’ big scoring threats.

“He’s such a scrappy, good player,” Gartz said. “He can defend anybody. He gets in their heads, he frustrates them and makes them do things they don’t want to do.”

Heading into Friday’s game, Los Alamos was ranked second in this week’s NMSoccer.com coaches poll, while the Panthers, who had lost just two games, were ranked third in AAAA.

The game now gives Los Alamos wins over two of the other three top programs in the state — it beat Albuquerque Academy 5-3 Sept. 16 — while it meets the top team in the state, St. Pius X, Thursday.

Los Alamos got to see quickly how dangerous Piedra Vista’s offense could be early in Friday’s contest. Piedra Vista, which has a roster full of good ball-handlers, was able to move the ball quickly to Quintana and Nick Chaharlang, another very quick and smooth forward.

Quintana, who can dribble around most players at will, did get a couple of looks in the first half but only got one shot-on-goal which was swallowed up by Los Alamos goalkeeper Ryan Dunham.

The Hilltoppers were able to keep the pressure on the Panther offense early, with Reagor scoring in the 14th minute, giving his squad a 1-0 lead.

Reagor, who shifted from playing midfield to forward, made a run down the right hashmark and received a short pass at his feet from Andy Thoma. Reagor made one dribble and hit a liner into the opposite post past the diving Panther goalkeeper Andre Romero.

Reagor’s second goal, coming in the 65th minute, seemed to be a backbreaker for Piedra Vista, which was scrambling on offense for most of the early part of the second half anyway.

Again, Reagor was able to one-dribble to the center of the field and ripped another laser shot from about 25 yards out past Romero again, who had no chance at it.

Despite the three goals — Thoma’s came in the 72nd minute to remove any doubt as to whether Piedra Vista would come back — Reagor said the game was clearly won by the Hilltopper back line.

“The defense really picked it up,” the senior captain said. “They played well together in the back, they shut Pablo and Nick down...It’s nice to have a shutout against Piedra Vista. They’re a good team. A lot of times we win 5-1, 5-2, 5-3, having to outscore the other team.”

For the season, Reagor now has 10 goals and 13 assists (33 points). He is tied with Dion Obermeyer for the team lead in goals and leads the team in assists.

Los Alamos (10-3) has now won eight straight contests — picking up four shutouts in that span — and hasn’t lost to an AAAA opponent this season.

While Bjorklund said the team isn’t going to look past anybody, including its improved district competition, it needs to keep one eye on the state tournament, which starts in about a month.

“If we lost (to Piedra Vista), we could lose our No. 2 seed,” he said. “We want to have as good a seed as possible for the state playoffs.”

The Hilltoppers haven’t qualified for the playoffs yet, but are in the driver’s seat in District 2AAAA, sitting on a 3-0 district record, two of those wins coming against its main competition, Capital and defending district champion Taos.