A more complete and improved Sunrise Mountain boys soccer team came into Jan. 28 more prepared to challenge Ironwood for West Valley supermacy.
Unfortunately for the home team, the Eagles are improved and complete from their usual state title contenders. Ironwood may be the 5A championship favorite.
It looked that way during the Northwest Region showdown in Peoria as the visitors scored early on a quick breakout then put away the 2-0 victory in the 71st minute.
Beck said when this year's team links to its two forward up top, they are very touch to handle.
"We had talked about switching the field and the back post run. That has been good for us. We caught them and did what we had been trained to do. It's exactly like we draw it up and practice it and it makes you proud as a coach to see it come to fruition," Beck said.
The aformentioned Mustangs goalkeeper, senior Connor Frosyland, came into play two minutes later. He leaped to deflect a long free kick from Ironwood senior defender Gabe Guerrero that curved and was ticketed for the upper left corner of the ent.
While the Eagles pressed for more, Sunrise Mountain was a bit out of sorts in the first half. The home team spent much of the first 40 minutes sending probing long balls toward its forwards, with little success.
"We don't normally play that way," Mustangs coach Bob Hossain said. "Ironwood has a pattern and their speed and Physicality is way better than us. They always get goals that way. We got beat that way. We will learn from it. I think Ironwood wanted it a little more than we did."
Sunrise Mountain (12-1, 7-1) had two golden opportunities in the 15th minute but their rebound sailed overthe net.
In the second half the Mustangs began to display the skill that propelled them to an undefeated star.
Senior defenders Thaib Abidi and Logan Guertin and striker Alexander Huguez returned to their high school team for a big senior season.
Abidi organizes the back line and Guertin's 10 goals and 10 assists adds some scoring punch. Huguez is as of now the fifth leading goal scorer in the state, with 23.
"We're a more technical team than we had last year. I had physically big kids last year," Hossain said. "Those three guys have made a huge difference."
Ironwood also received a fuel injection from returning seniors Ricardo Cardozo and Ernesto Osornio. Beck said both chose to play for their Phx Rising club team last season.
Cardozo helped put the game away. In the 81st minute Ironwood senior midfielder Mathew Holmes uncorked a blast that had too much force for Frosyland to do anything with but knock down.
Cardozo filled the right spot and knocked in the rebound. The victory moved Ironwood past Tucson Sunnyside into the #1 ranking in 5A the next morning.
The first loss of the season dropped the Mustangs from #3 to #4 in 5A. This rare intra-district matchup of undefeated teams drew a larger-than-typical crowd and a lot of chatter between the players and between the players the fans.
The game also left the improssion that it would be Chapter 1 of 2.
"Credit to the Sunrise fans and Ironwood fans for coming out. It was amazing and I think both teams thrived on it. They have a great team and we're going to probably see them again," Beck said.
While Ironwood boys soccer has experienced at least one game a year like this for about three decades, it is tough to recall a Sunrise Mountain soccer match with this much anticipation.
There should be more to come in the playoffs, and Hossain hopes his players will react better to this environment.
"It's like a playoff game and I don't think we performed like we wanted to perform," Hossain said.