By Ryan Maquiñana
Special to S.F. Examiner
The San Francisco Glens Soccer Club of USL League Two are proud to partner with the Examiner in featuring high school teams during the local prep season.
After last year’s unbeaten run to the Bay Counties League Central Division championship game concluded in an upset defeat, International High School boys’ soccer coach Mario Rossetti was determined to prevent history from repeating itself.
“We talk a lot with the boys about having a warrior mentality,” the second-year coach said, “so the boys really used last season’s loss to motivate themselves through tough times this season.”
Last Wednesday, the Jaguars left no doubt in their return to the final, posting a convincing 5-0 shutout of rival The Bay School at Kimbell Field to capture the BCL Central crown.
“Last year we lost [to Drew School] on penalties and we knew it got to that point because of a lack of effort, so we didn’t want it to happen again,” said defender and senior co-captain Dalton Cleary.
In the regular season, the Jaguars and Breakers traded identical 1-1 draws, and all signs pointed to a closely contested dogfight in the rubber match. Not this time.
Switching from a four-man back line to three defenders allowed International more flexibility with their outside backs and neutralized The Bay School’s quality midfield, led by senior Max DeWan.
“By going to a 3-4-3, we were able to force Bay to defend the wides, which meant that we would then have more space in the middle to make penetrating passes to goal,” Rossetti said.
Senior midfielder Taye Martins, who spearheaded International with a goal and three assists, had praise for his coach.
“In the previous games they were sitting back defensively, so coach said we had to draw them out,” Martins said. “We were playing the ball out of the back and that opened up space to attack.”
Late in the first half, the Jaguars’ Mike McCoy took advantage of the slightly ajar windows to feed Cleary’s fellow senior co-captain Seba Riano for the game’s opening goal. The turning point came soon afterward, when McCoy drilled a shot off a Bay School defender to double the lead before intermission.
Trailing 2-0 at halftime, the Breakers switched to a more aggressive attack. The shift in tactics favored International, and Martins extended the lead to 3-0 minutes into the second stanza thanks to a pinpoint through ball from Riano that beat the defense.
With the result no longer in doubt, the junior midfielder returned the favor to Riano, setting up the forward with assists over the top for two more scores to make up the final margin.
“Seba had a broken back last year, and look at him now,” said Dalton of Riano, who paced the Jaguars with a hat trick. “He’s a great leader and we have a fun time playing with him.”
When the final whistle blew, the International players swarmed the field. Despite the wide scoreline, however, Rossetti was quick to laud the Breakers, who earned a berth in the North Coast Section Division II playoffs.
“[The final] doesn’t take away what Bay have done this season,” said Rossetti. “We tied them twice in league play and in every game, Bay was very impressive. They have a fantastic program and their head coach Matt Favela has done a phenomenal job with his boys. We wish them all the best in NCS.”
Now Rossetti and assistant coach Eddie Williams set their sights on another piece of hardware that eluded them last season—an NCS Division I title. The Jaguars, along with the rest of the BCL Central, are one of the few Bay Area boys’ programs to play a fall soccer schedule. (The BCL West, which hosts perennial City powers University, Lick-Wilmerding, and Urban, compete in the winter.)
Despite being one of the smallest schools in the top NCS bracket with just over 300 students, International is a legitimate threat to win it all.
“Our enrollment is just enough to qualify for Division I,” Rossetti said. “But the love for soccer is huge here. You’ll see the kids here wear more soccer jerseys more than other sport, and that has helped a lot in building the program.”
The outgoing senior class has had a major hand in that endeavor. Riano and Chris McCoy are tied for the team lead with 14 goals, and David Dart isn’t too far behind with 13 of his own.
Cleary, who knows he could be playing his last game for the Jaguars every time he steps on the field from this point forward, credits their cohesion to more than just their time as high school teammates.
“I think it all goes back to the majority of us coming up together in middle school at French American together,” said Cleary. “We’ve played futsal in the yard and built chemistry for years.
“We also have a great coach who lets us play school soccer and also club soccer. For example, outside of school, I play for the SF Glens with David, Dalton, Taye, and Sadiq [Bouhamama] so we really know how to play with each other. It’s taken time, but everything’s clicking now.”
Ryan Maquiñana is the Director of Communications for the San Francisco Glens.