Bonsall High School's boys soccer team didn't mathematically clinch the Pioneer League championship with the Legionnaires' Monday, Jan. 29, victory against River Valley. The 5-0 road win, however, assured that the Snow Leopards could not surpass Bonsall in the standings and that The O'Farrell Charter School could win the league championship.
That is, they could win only if the Falcons won all three of their remaining league games and Bonsall lost both remaining contests against the two teams at the bottom of the league standings.
"The boys have worked really, really hard. The level of play across the board player to player has improved significantly," Bonsall coach Ennis Pipe said.
The win over River Valley, which is in Lakeside and plays soccer home games at Sportsplex USA in Santee, gave Bonsall a 9-0-1 Pioneer League record along with a 9-4-3 overall mark. River Valley fell to 5-4 in league play. O'Farrell held a 7-2 league record following the Falcons' Thursday, Jan. 25, loss at Ingold Sports Park in Fallbrook, where Bonsall home games are played.
"Their understanding of the game has improved a lot," Pipe said of his players. "That is a big step forward from where we were last year. It's all around really kind of coming together for us."
The 2022-2023 Legionnaires finished 1-16 overall and were 1-9 in Patriot League play. The 2023-2024 team entered Pioneer League play with an overall record of 0-3-2 but began league competition with two wins over Ocean View Christian: a 6-2 home triumph Dec. 8 and a 2-0 road victory Dec. 12.
A 4-2 home win, Dec. 14, against Mountain Empire gave the Legionnaires their first three-game winning streak since January 2022. The Legionnaires held a 3-1 halftime lead. Guajome Park Academy is not in the Pioneer League. The Frogs improved their season record to 8-0-2 with a Dec. 15 home victory over Bonsall.
Bonsall returned to league play Jan. 9 with a 3-0 win at O'Farrell. River Valley made a Jan. 11 trip to Fallbrook for a game which ended as a 4-2 Legionnaires triumph.
The Jan. 16 game in Pine Valley ended as a 4-4 tie. Mountain Empire held a 2-1 halftime lead, but Bonsall overcame that deficit.
The Legionnaires began another winning streak with a 5-1 victory, Jan. 18, at King-Chavez Community and an 8-2 home win, Jan. 23, against Cristo Rey. The 4-0 victory, Jan. 25, against O'Farrell saw the Legionnaires score twice in each half.
With about eight minutes elapsed in the Jan. 29 game Bonsall junior Thomas Sanchez passed to sophomore Rodrigo Dianas.
"It was a great pass that he made," Dianas said.
Dianas placed the ball into the net.
"It was a great goal," Dianas said.
"Rodrigo understood where he needed to be," Pipe said.
Sanchez scored with about 25 minutes elapsed, and he scored once again with about five minutes remaining in the first half. Sanchez obtained a hat trick and gave Bonsall a 4-0 lead with his third goal of the game in the fourth minute of the second half.
The lack of any goals during the next 30 minutes wasn't due to the Bonsall offense stagnating. Pipe inserted substitutes to face the Snow Leopards.
"It's about getting the boys playing experience," Pipe said. "I want everybody to have a chance to play. It's a reward for the commitment and practices."
The four-goal lead also allowed Bonsall to focus on defense. Jesus Jaime was the Bonsall goalkeeper who recorded the shutout. He was assisted by starting defenders Miguel Chavarin, Eder Herrera, Fernando Ibarra and Miguel Pedro.
"There's more of a willingness to attack the ball and not give the other team an opportunity to attack," Pipe said.
Pipe also noted the defensive contributions of midfielders Martin Alonzo and Drake Carterette.
"They're completely stopping attacks," Pipe said. "They don't allow the other team to establish a rhythm."
In the 78th minute Sanchez scored his fourth goal of the game to finalize the score.
"Good team effort," Pipe said. "I'm seeing improvement even in the newer guys. They're really showing composure on the ball."
The four consecutive wins gave Bonsall the program's longest winning streak since the 2018-2019 team won seven consecutive games.
"The overall concepts we're trying to put in place are beginning to cement themselves," Pipe said. "It makes us far more unpredictable and it makes us a much better team."