The exercise of hauling the fifth and sixth grade boys' Silver Division Daily Pilot Cup from the Paularino Elementary trophy case back to the tournament this year was almost a wasted effort. With a new engraving to indicate back-to-back championships, the hardware is going right back where it came from.
Paularino of Costa Mesa dominated Whittier to win the Silver Division title, 6-0, to defend its title Sunday afternoon at the Jack Hammet Sports Complex.
Sixth-grader Angel Arriza scored two handsome second-half goals to lead Paularino with four more teammates also finding the net. A smothering defensive effort by the Panthers cemented the lopsided victory.
"This is my last year for Paularino," said Arriza after coasting through the final minutes of the game. "We won it last year and we won it again and I feel proud."
The tone was set early when center forward Brian Hernandez, flashing conspicuous yellow cleats, sliced through the Whittier defense with his speed and a series of slick moves to blast home the game's first goal just a few minutes in to the game. There would be no let up on Whittier goaltender Jan Carlo Ceron, who was under siege throughout the contest.
Midway through the half, a Whittier defender's high kick set up a penalty shot, which thunder-footed goalie Walter Olmedo converted to make it 2-0. It might be the first time a goalkeeper scored a marker in a Cup championship game. It was one of only two touches Olmedo would have throughout the first half.
At the 15-minute mark, Sergio Suarez added a perfectly placed crossing shot to make it 3-0 and the rout was on.
Despite impressive footwork from Whittier attackers Brian Alvarez and Edson Hernandez, the Paularino defensive line of Cooper Crandall, Ryan Juncker and Luigi Polumbo were all but impenetrable. Whittier had no shots on goal in the first half with Olmedo only kicking away a harmless crossing pass.
"His skill level on defense is great," Paularino Coach Walter Olmedo, Sr., said of Crandall's dominating performance. "His skill level, his speed. Some of these boys are probably going to have [bad] dreams about him chasing them down."
Coach Olmedo swapped out some of his defenders for front liners in the second half with Alex Rodriguez inserted in goal. Whittier's determined attack put Rodriguez to the test. The sixth-grader made several strong saves, including an impressive diving stab of a booming shot by Alvarez to preserve the shutout.
Arriza's back-to-back goals put the game out of reach and Victor Mann, Paularino's only fifth-grader, closed the scoring with a close-range touch shot that arced over the goalie's head.
Despite the loss, Whittier coach Alan Alcantara was complimentary of how well his boys played throughout the tournament.
"I'm really proud of the guys. It was a lot of teamwork. They've grown a lot," said Alcantara. "I told them regardless of the score, they still have to represent their school and I think they did that. It was a good effort."
Olmedo was pleased with his team's improvement during the tournament.
"At the beginning we played sloppy," Coach Olmedo said of his team's undefeated tournament run. "Throughout the progress of four or five games, the kids really came together and it was kind of hard to stop [them]."