Ezequiel Rodriguez

Sunnyside High School senior forward Ezequiel Rodriguez drives through West Valley’s defense on his way toward the goal during the first quarter of Friday night’s home game.

If the first of three games between Sunnyside and West Valley was any indication of the high intensity level generated by the competitive play underneath Friday night’s ominous cloud cover, the heated playoff implications that permeated from the pitch added another dramatic layer of intrigue to the rivalry.

The CBBN South Region match ended deadlocked 0-0 in regulation with both teams having an opportunity to drive home the winning goal before time expired, according to SHS Boys Soccer Co-Head Coach Dave Guevara.

With the game on the line, Rams’ senior goalkeeper Devin Duthie came up huge and stopped two Grizzly spot kicks as the visitors won 4-2 in a penalty shootout. Sunnyside fell to 3-2 overall on the season and the Rams moved to 5-0.

“Their goalie did a good job. He blocked two of our shots. The players put the ball where they wanted to in the shootout, but the goalie chose the correct side and made two stops,” coach acknowledged.

Because of the limited spring season and short interval of time in between games, the Grizzlies don’t have time to linger on the tough loss.

“At the end of the game, one of the biggest things I’m so proud of our community and their (WVHS) community, there was applause for both teams, which I’ve never been a part of when I say that,” Guevara described during an interview on Saturday.

The humble coach added, “when both sidelines applaud player’s efforts at the end of the game, knowing that you gave everything you had, like I told the boys, that’s amazing in itself.”

Sunnyside entered the game having won their last two games by way of consecutive shutouts while scoring a combined 10 goals against Prosser on the road and Eisenhower at Clem Senn Field.

“That’s one thing we talk about, we can’t have a big head on our shoulders because we get up on a couple of teams. It’s a reminder at the end of the day, you can improve on every little thing to get better. And that’s what we strive for,” Guevara expressed.

The Grizzlies stingy defense was the first team to shut down the Rams opportunistic offense that scored at least three goals in each of its first four games.

Sunnyside players knew they were going up against a high-quality team and are constantly reminded by coaches to capitalize on the opportunities when they present themselves, Guevara said.

During the initial 20 minutes of the first half, the Grizzlies’ offense was called for offside penalties multiple times, which snatched away any momentum or scoring threat created by the attacking frontline. As both explosive offenses were neutralized, the initial meeting turned into a defensive and physical grind.

The Rams’ roster from top to bottom is filled with players who are fast and combined with their length, caught the attention of Sunnyside players and coaches, Guevara pointed out.

He reaffirmed the outstanding level of overall play in the Big 9 and making the league one of the toughest, which motivates teams to raise their level of play.

Friday night’s game brought to light that the Grizzlies need to continue to get better, coach reported. “Staying humble and remembering that we have to continue to grow.”

Sunnyside visits Eisenhower to play the Cadets on Friday, April 30, 7 p.m.

Patrick Shelby can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 110 or email PShelby@SunnysideSun.com

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