ERIE — With opposing defenses struggling to identify a primary threat and the Falcons' defense having been nearly unsolvable in 2014, facing the Skyline High boys soccer team can be a frustrating guessing game.
Ranked 10th in the latest CHSAANow.com poll, the defending Tri-Valley League champion Falcons remained undefeated with a 4-1 win over the Erie Tigers.
"We have a lot of talented kids on this team and we all are capable of assisting and we all look to do it a lot," junior midfielder Marco Rodriguez said. "When everyone is able to give a good team effort all around, that's when we're at our best."
Rodriguez leads the Tri Valley-leading Falcons (9-0, 7-0 Tri-Valley) with five assists. In the Falcons' varied attack, six different Falcons players have scored multiple goals this season.
The Falcons have even played two goalkeepers — Noel Garcia and Gabe Chavez — who frequently split time with one playing the first half and the other the second. They did again on Wednesday night after Garcia started but left the game in the 19th minute with a leg injury from an earlier collision that sent Tigers second-leading scorer Dominic Byrd (eight goals) to the bench with a leg injury.
Erie (6-4, 4-3 Tri Valley) took a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute when junior scoring leader Joshua Michels (16 goals) lobbed a pass to streaking teammate Cable Oliphant, who broke free of the Falcons defense to score the game's first goal.
With 31 seconds left in the first half, however, Skyline sophomore midfielder Alec Bennett turned and fired from just outside the 18-yard box to tie the game. Less than a minute into the second half, Falcons sophomore Dawson McCawley played a low corner kick into the box that deflected off of Tigers goalkeeper Joseph Gildhouse and into the net for a 2-1 Falcons lead.
Skyline's Gerardo Meza scored in the 62nd minute and senior captain Cruz Valdez added another to push the lead to 4-1.
"Erie is looking really good for it being their first year," Skyline head coach Luis Chavez said. "They put us on our toes, for sure. Once we settled down and got our composure, we started really looking good. Once we were able to take control of the game, we were the ones creating all the chances and then it was a matter of execution at that point."
The Falcons have now won 17 straight Tri-Valley League games. They also have allowed just four goals this season and hadn't let one in since beating Windsor 2-1 on Sept. 8.
Still in their first year with a varsity program, the Tigers entered the game on a five-game win streak. Giving a top-10 side a run for its money, even if just for one half, left first-year head coach Dayton Owens feeling positive after the loss.
"There are a lot of things we still need to learn from, being a brand new team," Owens said. "We're right behind Skyline and Windsor and we wanted to establish that we're there. We gave them a run in the first half and that's the first time they've been behind all season. We're still learning how to play together but we have heart and that's going to take this team a long way."
The Falcons also defeated the Tigers 3-1 in the Tri-Valley season opener on Aug. 28.
Erie will play the second-place Windsor Wizards (8-2, 6-1 Tri-Valley) on Monday and the Falcons will face the Wizards next Wednesday.
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Skyline 4, Erie 1
At Erie H.S.
Skyline (9-0, 7-0) 1 3 — 4
Erie (6-4, 4-3) 1 0 — 1
Goals (assists) — Skyline: Alec Bennett (unassisted), 40th minute; Dawson McCawley (unassisted), 41st minute; Gerardo Meza (unassisted), 62nd minute; Cruz Valdez (unassisted), 65th minute; Erie: Cable Oliphant (Joshua Michels), 14th minute.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Skyline: Noel Garcia (21-1-1), Gabe Chavez (59-0-1); Erie: Joseph Gildhouse (80-4-9).