After two wild and wide-open weeks, the Modesto Metro Conference soccer race began to take form on Thursday.
And the shape it assumed was that of a Panther.
The battle between the MMC teams with the best overall records was all Modesto, which dominated Gregori 3-0 at Roosevelt Junior High.
“We’ll go snooping around to see who beat who, but it’s been impossible to do any scouting,” said Panthers coach Matthew Mendes. “Downey comes out and ties us last week, and we felt that was a game we should win. So the guys know there will be no pushovers in this league. We had to prepare for these guys, and I know they’re a better team than they showed today.”
Modesto improved to 2-0-1 in MMC play and 8-1-5 overall, while Gregori fell to 1-1-1 and 7-4-3. The only other unbeaten team in MMC play is Beyer (2-0-1, 3-6-4,) which did not play on Thursday.
The Jaguars were strong on Tuesday when they handed Davis (2-1-0, 8-5-1) its first MMC loss by a surprising 5-1 margin, a win Gregori coach Ethan Duewell said might have robbed his team of energy entering the game against Modesto.
“Tuesday took a lot out of us, and Modesto (which had Tuesday’s bye) was fresh coming in,” Duewell said. “I’m not making an excuse, but we just weren’t in this game from the very beginning ... and then they punched us in the face in the first five minutes. We never recovered.”
In the fourth minute, Julio Corona’s corner kick from the left side settled onto the head of junior Francisco Ruiz, who deflected it cleanly into the goal.
The Panthers made it 2-0 in the 36th minute when team captain Artemio Contreras flipped a cross from the left to teammate Serafin Alberto, who headed up back into the left side of the net.
“We got an early goal, which took them down and brought our momentum up,” Contreras said. “After that, we just played our game. We did have more energy, and it felt like we wanted it more than they did.”
Contreras scored the third goal in the opening minute of the second half, dribbling past two defenders and the Gregori goalkeeper before touching the ball into the net from near point-blank range.
And just like that, Modesto was in complete control of the game. Time will tell if the Panthers go on to control the MMC race just as tightly.
“This league is a mystery, but Modesto is the class until someone unseats them,” Duewell said. “Obviously they’re deep and strong. After Modesto, it’s a crapshoot. Davis might be the most talented team I’ve seen, but we haven’t seen Downey yet. Beyer is much improved over last year. It might take a few weeks before the second through fifth places hash out.”