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Gridley freshman turns heads

Bulldogs blast Huskies 3-0

It may have been early in the year, but freshman David Gomez made a decision that could alter the course of the Gridley High boy soccer team's season.

After starting the first four matches at forward and not recording a single goal, Gomez approached Bulldogs coach Jesse Barajas and asked him to make a change by moving him back to play defender.

His reasoning was simple: Gomez didn't feel he was helping the team enough by playing up top.

Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon, where Gomez scored not once, but twice from his center-defender position to propel Gridley to a 3-0 Butte View League victory over Sutter.

With strong ball-handling skills and the ability to score from seemingly anywhere on the pitch, Gomez has provided the Bulldogs with a boost by playing on the backline, and Barajas said he's more than comfortable to sit back and let his freshman play to his strengths.

"We moved him to defender, but we gave him the liberty to come up and attack when he wants to," Barajas said. "I can't remember a defender scoring twice in a game, and he's done it three times this season.

"He's cool and collected when he gets the ball. He's cold-blooded."

Gomez set the tone in the 33rd minute when he found a small crease, dribbled the ball in and hooked in a left-footed shot past the Huskies' goalkeeper to stake the Bulldogs to a 1-0 lead at halftime.

After Juan Velasquez scored off a ricochet in the opening minute of the second half, Gomez made the play of the afternoon. He pulled up from 25 yards out and let another shot rip into the back of the net to complete the scoring, propelling the Bulldogs to their third straight win.

"I grew up playing with older guys and when I see open areas, I push up," Gomez explained. "If I see an opening, I'll take a shot, but if I have a partner, I'm going to pass it. It's pretty simple."

The freshman's strong performance was impressive, and was enough to earn the praise of first-year Sutter coach Tim Danna.

"No. 9 (Gomez) was the best player on the field today," Danna said. "He was fun to watch out there."

In a match that decided sole possession of second place in the BVL, Gridley (7-6-2, 3-1-1) was without the services of four starters who were in Mexico visiting family, while Sutter (4-5-1, 2-2-1) played without four starters due to various injuries.

The advantage clearly went to the Bulldogs, who controlled the pace of the match while outshooting the Huskies 28-5.

Sutter forward Mat Sanders missed the game with a separated shoulder, and things went bad to worse for the Huskies when fellow forward Brad Bonnenfant went down with a pulled quad late in the first half.

"They just killed us in the midfield and that's where we're lacking right now with all the players gone," Danna said. "We had people playing out of position and made due with what we had."

Danna praised the defensive play of Franklin Tarke, Mike McPeters and Corey Wilhelm, as well as forwards Garrett White and Ethan Rupert, who saw significant playing time.

As for Gridley, Barajas said he will have more decisions to make once his team returns to full strength.

"We had two seniors starting and the rest were freshmen and sophomores," he said. "When the seniors come back, they're going to have to earn their spots back with the way these guys are playing."

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