Christian Lara

Junior midfielder Christian Lara helped aid Manuel Zepeda and the Cowboys soccer defense with his booming free kicks from the back line during the Cowboys elimination state-tournament game last Wednesday at Blue Ridge.

WILLCOX — The No. 8 Willcox soccer varsity hung with eventual state champion Blue Ridge for about 20 minutes of the first-round state tournament match in near-freezing conditions at Pinetop-Lakeside last Wednesday afternoon.

However, 35 minutes later, there was no mercy left during the 8-0 elimination loss in 13-year head coach Patrick Macumber’s final game.

“I said, ‘Let’s go in there with no fear and attack,’ ” the coach said. “They (Blue Ridge) are tough on offense as well as defense. We probably could have kept the score closer, but we wanted to give ourselves a chance to win.”

Willcox pushed forward behind senior strikers Chuy Hernandez and Carlos Lon, and junior midfielder Christian Lara to try and overcome an early 2-0 deficit in that first 20 minutes, but the solid defense and speedy counterattack from the host Yellowjackets were just too much for senior defender Manuel Zepeda and junior Victor Marquez to contain.

Blue Ridge led, 6-0, by halftime and closed out Willcox, 8-0, on the mercy rule at the 55th minute of the 80-minute contest, the first step of Blue Ridge’s state title run that saw the ‘Jackets eliminate Bisbee, 9-1, and Chino Valley in the title game, 3-0.

“It’s never easy to take losing by several goals. As long as they know they did everything they could out there, I’m proud of them, and they can be proud of themselves,” Macumber said. “This group of seniors were a great group of freshmen four years ago and included Brayan Hernandez and Francisco (Pancho) Oscar.”

The good news is that Macumber leaves another great new crop of freshmen to join the talented juniors and sophomores to try to carry on a tradition Macumber and assistant Jeff Stoddard leave behind for a new coach.

“I believe we won seven conference titles in my 13 years. We went to three final fours, including one title appearance, and had a whole bunch of wins,” Macumber said. “Jeff was a major part of everything we accomplished.”

Macumber said he hopes that Chimo Aguero is the natural selection as the next coach after working as an assistant the past two conference-title-winning seasons.

“His technical knowledge of the game is very impressive. We left most of the day-to-day practice responsibilities to him to help prepare him. As a former player, he can relate to these kids and their situation,” Macumber said.

“It was a fun group to coach. They always had a positive energy. We worked hard but laughed hard as well.”

He will continue to coach in the Willcox high school and middle school wrestling programs.

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