2023-24 Boys Soccer

No. 1 Sunnyside enters 6A state playoffs determined after topping No. 3 Tucson again

Sunnyside’s Angel Bracamontes-Pulido tries to drive past a Tucson player (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Sunnyside turns its focus to the 6A state tournament next week after completing one of the best regular seasons in the history of boys soccer in Arizona.

How dominant are the Blue Devils?

Sunnyside gave fellow MaxPreps top 50 team Tucson its three losses in the regular season, outscoring the Badgers 11-2 in those games.

That’s fellow MaxPreps top 50 team in the nation, not the state.

Monday’s 4-0 victory at Gridley Stadium for the 16th-ranked Blue Devils is the latest win against the talented No. 47 Badgers, who are 17-0 against teams other than Sunnyside. They outscored opponents 81-14 in those 17 wins.

Sunnyside is the No. 1 6A team in the AIA power ratings and Tucson is No. 3.

The win for the Blue Devils (22-0-1) follows last week’s 4-1 triumph over the Badgers at Sunnyside. The teams met in the championship of the Brandon Bean Invitational on Dec. 1 at Kino Sports Complex and Sunnyside emerged with a 3-1 victory.

“They’re a really good team, so to do that back-to-back in such a short span of time is really hard,” Sunnyside coach Casey O’Brien said, referring to the wins Thursday and Monday over the Badgers. “I have to give them a ton of credit because the last two years, they bested us.

“It’s just nice to see the progress we made this year. We put ourselves in a good position. We’ll be the No. 1 seed. That’s the goal at the end of the season — to be the highest seed gives you the easiest route through the playoffs even though it’s not easy in 6A. But that was our goal and we accomplished it and it’s always cool to do that.”

Angel Bracamontes-Pulido scored the last two goals at the 58-minute mark and 72-minute mark to help Sunnyside pull away.

Bracamontes-Pulido now has 33 goals to go with 30 assists this season, giving him 96 points — one of the top 10 marks nationally.

“This win makes us want to work harder and keep pushing, not to give up and enjoy our time,” the junior forward said.

Those words are essentially what O’Brien told his team in the postgame huddle.

Now that the Blue Devils have homefield edge through most of the playoffs as the No. 1 seed, they want to close out the season strong to earn their second state title in the last five years.

Two seasons ago, Sunnyside lost in the first round of the state playoffs at home as a No. 2 seed against No. 15 Independence.

The Blue Devils advanced to the quarterfinals as a No. 4 seed last season but lost to No. 5 Perry, which went on to win the state title.

O’Brien reiterated to his team after Monday’s win over Tucson that he will make sure they are ready in the practices leading up to the playoffs.

He often is on the pitch playing alongside his players, providing them a glimpse of his determination with the hope his players take note and transfer the effort into games.

“We need to keep focused on the game, keep grinding, keep doing what we’re doing,” said senior Armando Alvizar, who had a goal and an assist against the Badgers Monday night. “If we keep practicing every day with the same mentality, not letting ourselves drop and not get cocky, I think we’ll defintely get the state championship if we keep going like this.”

Alvizar put Sunnyside ahead 1-0 on Monday night, converting on a penalty kick at the 18-minute mark.

The score remained the same until halftime with both teams actively attacking each other’s goal.

Sunnyside finally started to break away when Bryan Hernandez lined a 32-yard kick to Aaron Aborca, who headed the perfectly timed pass into the net to put the Blue Devils ahead 2-0 at the 55-minute mark.

Miguel Lugo had numerous saves as Sunnyside’s goaltender and defender Sebastian Barrios is the state’s best player in O’Brien’s estimation because of his ability to lead a stout defense that has limited opponents to 13 goals in 23 games this season.

Sunnyside has 10 shutouts this season. The only blemish for the Blue Devils was a 0-0 tie against Desert Vista in the Arizona Soccer Showcase at Chandler on Dec. 29.

“We have the team, obviously the hardest piece is to have the team,” O’Brien said. “We’ve got that. We’ve got the pieces. We’ve got the players. They have the work ethic. We have to put it all together.

“It’s four games (in the state tournament). It’s not out of our reach. We have to put together four games back-to-back-to-back-to back and make sure you come out on top of all four no matter what. Now it’s not about being pretty. It’s not about the score. It’s literally about just survive and advance and just keep making it. I think we have the team that has the DNA to do that this year.”


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 in 2016 and is presently a special education teacher at Sunnyside High School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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