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HAVING A BALL

Fun-loving goal scorer led Sierra’s turnaround

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HAVING A BALL

Sierra High senior Braian Gomez netted 29 goals to lead the area. The Bulletin's All-Area Player of the Year was two shy off the program's single-season record.

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin


POSTED December 26, 2009 1:55 a.m.

Braian Gomez’s strength as a leader also served as a weakness.

His infectious free spirit and competitive energy set the tone for Sierra’s huge turnaround from back-to-back losing seasons. He produced one of the school’s greatest single-season efforts for boys soccer.

That same combination also kept him from putting together the greatest season.

The Bulletin’s All-Area Boys Soccer Player of the Year admittedly let emotions get the best of him at times during the Valley Oak League season.

He was twice booked for double-yellow cards, leading to suspensions that kept him from shattering Sierra’s program for single-season goals scored.

Ricky Victor set the program record with 31 goals in 2006 when the Timberwolves enjoyed their last winning season. They captured the VOL championship and advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title game that year.

Gomez finished his senior campaign with 29 goals to lead the area. The two single-game suspensions didn’t help, and neither did a knee injury sustained during the preseason that forced him out of one match while he played in others despite the pain.

“That’s one thing I’d like to go back and change, just the stupid fouls that I made,” he said. “One time I told a ref that I was just trying to play soccer and he carded me.

“It happened and I can’t change all of that, but that’s what killed me. I got two yellow cards and was suspended for the games against Lathrop and Sonora.”

Lathrop and Sonora finished in the bottom two of the VOL standings, and Gomez struck for five goals against both teams combined during the first half of the regular season.

His oh-so-close finish was microcosmic to Sierra’s season. The Timberwolves tied champion Central Valley twice, dropped one-goal losses to second-place Ceres and ended up a mere three points behind the leader in the standings.

Ceres went on to beat Sierra 2-0 in the postseason semifinal and beat crosstown rival Central Valley for the title.

Gomez commanded the respect of Ceres in their third meeting of the season. He hardly got his foot on the ball with two or three defenders marking him at all times.

That’s a testament to Gomez’s talent. He has the physical attributes of an ideal striker, combining quickness with strength. And few in the league matched his instincts, finishing ability and ball skills.

“I’d say he’s one of the top two that I’ve coached at the school,” said longtime coach Jose Montes.

While Gomez has his share of regrets, he is proud of what the team accomplished. Gomez and the rest of the seniors went out with a 17-8-3 overall record — a far cry from the 4-18-2 mark of 2008, and 2-16-2 of 2007.

“Everyone on the team wishes they can go back and change this or that, but it was a big success for us,” he said. “The main thing was that us seniors, we wanted it and we showed it.

“During my sophomore and junior years we didn’t care when we’d lose. But as seniors we stepped it up this year. It was our last year so we wanted to do well.”

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