Farmington, Piedra Vista open boys soccer season with high expectations

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — For two of the top boys soccer teams in District 2-5A, the first chance to find out which direction these programs are headed will come quickly.

Both the Piedra Vista and Farmington teams are slated to take part in the annual Tiger Shootout, which begins Friday morning at the Aztec Sports Complex.

The Scorpions will face Kirtland Central while the Panthers, on the flipside of the bracket, will square off against Bloomfield. Both games will start at 8 a.m. 

For the Panthers, and head coach Daniel Burns, the tournament is an exciting opportunity to show off their younger talent.

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"We actually have a really good roster, I wasn't expecting that," Burns said. "We've got some good skill in our seniors and we have a lot of young guys who have really stepped up. They're going to definitely contribute to our success."

The Panthers played a shortened schedule last spring due to travel restrictions and finished the season with a record of 5-2-3 played primarily against local and area teams.

Getting back to a more regular schedule, which will include district matches against the likes of La Cueva, Eldorado, West Mesa and Sandia is a prospect for which Burns is excited.

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"We finally got to start practicing without masks this summer, which made it a good time for us," Burns said. "I like our schedule for the team this season."

Burns, entering his second season as boys soccer coach, was particularly excited about seeing the strength at the goalkeeper position, with a pair of seniors expected to stand out.

"Xavier Chavers and Deryk Duncan are going to be key for us this season in the net," Burns said. 

Burns emphasized building the team concept for the Panthers coming into this season, hoping that philosophy will result in strong performances on the field.

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"The guys have shown a lot of leadership across the board, and my personal belief has always been that not one individual player will make or break the team," Burns said. 

For the Scorpions, who finished last season with a record of 8-2-1, they'll be learning under new head coach Ray Santillanes, who took over the program after the end of last season from Victor Gill.

Santillanes had previously been an assistant boys soccer coach at Piedra Vista.  

The Scorpions advanced to the state tournament last season, losing in the quarterfinals to eventual runner-up Albuquerque High by a final of 4-0.

"That was a real tough match against them," Santillanes said of the postseason loss. "They were stronger than us down the stretch. We definitely held our own in that one."

Santillanes said the Scorpions team struggled a bit without having that experience against some of the bigger schools and teams outside of the district.

"We had to stay here local against teams not in our district," Santillanes said. "I think for me, at least we got to play. That was our biggest thing."

Santillanes is encouraged about a number of star performers on his team this season, with four seniors coming back as well as co-captains Colton Lincoln, Jesus Flores and Anthony Solar.  

"I've got some really strong defensive stars on the team," Santillanes said. "That's something I enjoy and something I think we'll be really good at."

La Cueva will likely be considered the favorite in the district this season. The Bears went into the state tournament as the second-ranked team in Class 5A, before losing in the semifinals to eventual state champion Rio Rancho 8-7 on penalties. The match finished 1-1 after extra time.

Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680