Sunnyside exorcises demons of last year’s early exit by overpowering Carl Hayden

Sunnyside celebrates its first goal against Carl Hayden on Tuesday (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

At this time last year, the Sunnyside boys soccer team’s season was abruptly over despite the Blue Devils having so much promise as the 5A Southern champions that went unbeaten in region play.

The unthinkable happened with the Blue Devils, seeded No. 2 in the 5A state playoffs, losing to No. 15 Glendale Independence 2-1 in the first round.

That’s like Arizona’s basketball team losing to 15th-seeded Santa Clara in the NCAA tournament 30 years ago, only worse because Sunnyside lost at home and not on a neutral field.

“The first game’s the hardest, especially after last year — you take it for granted,” Sunnyside coach Casey O’Brien said after the Blue Devils’ dominating 5-0 win over visiting Carl Hayden in the first round of the 6A state tournament on Tuesday night.

“The seeds really don’t matter. Once you pass the first one, you feel a lot better about your chances.”

Sunnyside is the No. 4 seed in the 6A tournament (after moving up from the 5A this school year) and Carl Hayden was seeded No. 13.

Making the victory that much more satisfying is Carl Hayden is that school that defeated Sunnyside in the 5A state championship match in 2020, preventing the Blue Devils from being repeat champions.

O’Brien, who is 125-26-7 in his seventh season as Sunnyside’s coach, believes this year’s 14-4-1 team has the same feel as his teams three to four years ago that challenged for championships.

“Prior to Covid, I feel like our chemistry here was always one of our biggest benefits,” O’Brien said. “We had great chemistry and a bond between the team. This is probably the first year that we’re back to that.

“I feel like the vibe on the team and chemistry on the team is awesome this year. I see that probably going forward for us, too. Being able to build that again is going to be great for us. It translates to good soccer and more success for the kids.”

Although it took 38 minutes for Sunnyside to score its first goal against Carl Hayden (9-9-1) on Tuesday night, the Blue Devils were relentless in their attack from the start.

They had four shots on goal before junior forward Bryan Hernandez put Sunnyside up 1-0, scoring the first of his two goals. He kicked it in left-footed from about 23 yards away past two defenders and the goalie.

“We feel a lot more confident because we won this game,” Hernandez said.

Ivan Felix, a senior who rejoined the Blue Devils this year after going thought personal issues last season, helped build Sunnyside’s lead to 4-0 first with a goal at the 52-minute mark and then an assist three minutes later to Roberto Arballo.

Angel Bracamontes-Pulido increased the lead to 4-0 maneuvering past the goalie at the 64-minute mark.

Hernandez closed the scoring with his second goal in the 70th minute.

Sunnyside’s goalkeeper Mikey Vasquez, who is also the football team’s placekicker, recorded the shutout turning back four shots on goal.

The Blue Devils’ defense was up for the challenge against Carl Hayden’s prolific scorer Freddy Gonzales, who had 26 goals this season. Gonzales attacked the net a couple of times and he never could take a clean shot.

“Obviously, taking him away from the game was crucial to us,” O’Brien said. “The defense did a great job of that. Offensively, it took us a while to find our rhythm but we still controlled the game.”

The rhythm stayed in beat throughout.

Felix is one of the senior leaders who is very vocal on the team and spearheads Sunnyside’s fluid attack. Many of the passes from the midfielders were right on stride to Felix and the attacking forwards on the perimeter.

“From start to finish, we were patient throughout the game,” Felix said. “I told them right before we got started, ‘Let’s be patient.’ … It paid off, keeping the ball and running without the ball.

“I grew up with most of these guys. We’re really close to each other. To be honest, eerything we do outside the field comes down to what we do inside the field as well. Our chemistry that we built together outside the field and inside the field really helps us.”

Sunnyside next hosts No. 5 Gilbert Perry at 2 p.m. Saturday in the quarterfinals of the 6A state playoffs.

Perry (16-2-3) is coming off a 3-0 win over No. 12 Phoenix Camelback on Tuesday.


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
To Top