Jesus Duran is a happy head coach.
It’s a windy winter afternoon at Camarillo High, and Duran has the Scorpion boys’ soccer team running through a barrage of endof workout drills, the most taxing of which are timed sprints.
The day has grown long and the temperature, along with the sun, begins to plummet.
But everyone participates, and no one complains.
This squad of Scorpions clearly understands what’s at stake this season.
“They’re good kids, but they also have high expectations of each other,” said Duran before gathering his troops for a final practice-breaking huddle. “They want to work hard. They want to do well.
Camarillo has already made school history.
According to Duran and athletic director Mike Smith, the Scorpions’ 8-0 start was the longest unbeaten streak to open a season in program history.
ACHS lost back- to- back matches to finish fourth at the Buena New Year’s Tournament, pushing its record to 8-2 overall entering Thursday’s Pacific View League opener against rival Rio Mesa (a final score wasn’t available at press).
Duran and his players agree that improved team chemistry has been the biggest reason Camarillo has gone from a 4-15-3 record a year ago, including a 0-10 mark in league matches, to playoff contender status in 2011.
“I’d say it’s the best camaraderie I’ve seen in my last 10 years of coaching,” said Duran, a sixthyear boys’ coach and Spanish teacher who helped guide Camarillo to a PVL crown in 2007.
“This is a young team that’s hungry to win. They have an attitude of, ‘We’re going to go out there and do what we have to do,’ and that’s a huge plus for any coach.”
Senior forward Jose Rojas, a co-captain in his second season with the varsity squad, said the players have bonded on and off the pitch.
Whether it’s organizing a team dinner before the Rio Mesa game, breaking down video of recent matches with their coach during lunchtime or engaging in intense video game battles of FIFA Soccer 11, these guys get along great.
“We have a lot of chemistry going on,” Rojas said. “We’re playing more as a team, more united than ever before.
“Hanging out outside of school really helps the team chemistry, and that comes out on the field. We’re moving the ball around all over the place, having a lot more possession time.”
In the team’s preferred 4-4-2 formation—ACHS has also utilized a 4-3-3 setup at times this year—Rojas leads a talented group of strikers that includes seniors Andres Gonzalez and Kristopher Korzan, as well as sophomores Carlos Tiscareno and Joel Gonzalez.
Joel Gonzalez and Korzan can also slide into midfield positions when called upon.
Having scored 24 goals in its first 10 contests, Camarillo continues to slice and dice defenses with a ball-control attack that thrives on exploiting mismatches on the counterattack.
“We do a lot of one- two passes,” Rojas said. “One player passes to another and then makes a quick run while the defender is back on his heels.
“We’re looking to get a oneon one with the keeper, and that’s where the magic happens.”
The Scorpions also showcase a few magicians in the midfield.
Junior midfielder Diego Ortega is Camarillo’s most electric playmaker.
According to his head coach, Ortega’s star quality is his ability to make everyone around him perform at a higher level.
“He is one of the most talented athletes that I have seen play soccer,” said Duran of the 5-foot-9 Ortega. “He has a great heart. The one quality he has, beyond being very talented, is that the looks for his teammates to make them better and to make it a better team.”
Rick Perry, a 5-foot-6 junior midfielder, is another top-notch contributor for ACHS.
While Ortega can dazzle with assists and goals, Perry, a threeyear varsity member, serves as the backbone of the Scorpions’ defensive midfield.
A tough-as-nails grinder, Perry joined the team late in the fall after serving as a place kicker for the football squad. He immediately noticed a change in attitude from previous seasons.
“Coming in from football, this team looked great,” Perry said. “Guys were having fun. It was fantastic, great to come back to.
“A lot of that comes from our leaders. Jose (Rojas) and Matthew (Lariviere) are our leaders. They set the standard and lead the team. We haven’t had that the past few years that I’ve been here.”
Junior Xavier Aragon has been a goal-scoring threat in the ACHS midfield. Junior Shane Ribovich and sophomore Karl Lind are skilled enough to vacillate between midfield and defense.
Lariviere, a sophomore, is a team co-captain and defensive stalwart.
From his position at right back, Lariviere helped the Scorpions register five shutouts in their first six matches.
Still, Lariviere credits the team’s offense for scoring enough goals to make the defenders’ jobs easy.
“It takes stress off the entire back line,” Lariviere said. “When they score like they have, we can just relax and play our game.”
Seniors Patrick Horton and Tyler Klauza; juniors Tyler Erickson, Taylor Keairns and Casey Quintero; and sophomore Jesus Valdez are all contributors for the Camarillo defense.
At goalkeeper, junior Teagan Lybrand was supposed to start but a shoulder injury has forced him to the sidelines for a least a few more weeks. In Lybrand’s absence, ACHS has relied on senior Cary Hernandez and junior Nicholas Westfall to fill in between the pipes.
Westfall may be Camarillo’s unsung hero.
A natural midfielder with limited goalkeeping experience, Westfall is literally taking shots for the team.
“I have to remind myself and the players that (Westfall) is not a goalkeeper,” Duran said. “He’s a kid that’s helping his team as best as he can. He’s a trooper.”
At Camarillo these days, it’s all for one and one for all.