The Highlanders beat the Hayward Farmers 4-0 on January 21. For most of the game, there was little question about who would win. There was, however, a question about whether or not the match would go on as scheduled or would be canceled due to the rain.
When asked about the possibility that a soccer game might be cancelled by the weather, Coach Todd Sullivan, an Englishman, could only laugh. The decision to play was left in the hands of the referees, who determined that the drainage system at Witter field was sufficient for the game to go on.
With most of the spectators huddling beneath umbrellas and under the field house eves, the teams took to the field to begin eighty minutes of rain-drenched soccer. The field was slippery, and the players sometimes seemed to be blinded by the deluge, but the game was fast-paced and decisive.
By keeping the ball moving, the Highlanders’ midfield and offense were able to plough through the Farmers’ defense with a constant barrage of threats. Goals from sophomores Patrick Alexandre and Connor Curtis came in the first half; sophomore Andre Stankiewicz and Curtis completed the score line with goals in the second half.
Meanwhile, a brilliant defensive line of freshman William Daniel, senior Rico Barker, junior Ben Marshburn and senior Khiro Lambert helped freshman goalie Brady Hinsch keep a clean sheet.
Hayward’s offense did mount a few threats. Freshman standout Ryder Padgett had a solid shot on goal during the second half, and Hinsch was kept busy with several set pieces and corner kicks, but the score held.
At the end of the game, everyone was soggy and wet and in good spirits. Coach Sullivan was happy as he walked to his car. “I am proud of the boys,” he said. “Everything came together. It was a good game.”
On January 23, Piedmont hosted San Lorenzo, one of their chief competitors in the West Alameda County Conference (WACC). And the competition proved to be fierce, as the Highlanders came away with a tough 1-0 victory that ended with punches flying.
The first half ended with no score, as both offenses probed the defenses but didn’t produce many shots on goal.
The pace picked up in the second half. Piedmont appeared to score the first goal on a well-placed free kick by Marshburn, which Curtis sent across the goal mouth and senior Raf Stankiewicz put in the back of the net. But the side referee called offsides.
The Highlanders did score the game’s only goal on a free kick by Khiro Lambert in the 68th minute. There was some confusion, with several Highlanders and Farmers jostling around the goalie, but the center judge ruled that the ball crossed the goal line.
Piedmont effectively ran out the remaining 12 minutes of the game, despite one scare, when a mishit header hit the Highlander’s cross bar and barely went over the goal.
It was a chippy game throughout, with many fouls and a few yellow cards. Push came to shove in the final minute, however, with Piedmont running out the clock and San Lorenzo desperate to regain possession. A Farmer pushed a Highlander, punches were exchanges, and the referee called the game.
Striker Hunter Disco said afterward: “We were resolute despite all of the chippiness. It got ugly at the end, but we’re still happy to come away with a big win against our league rival.”
The Highlanders’ record now stands at 5-5-2 overall, and 5-2, good enough for first place, in the WACC.
Next up for Piedmont are an away game against Encinal on January 29 and a home game against Arroyo on January 30.
Photos by Todd Marshburn