Despite challenging season, East Mountain boys soccer coach ‘Happy where we’re at’

East Mountain's Jose Perea headering the ball at midfield. Photo by G. Demarest.

On paper, it looks like East Mountain High School’s boys soccer team is having another down year.

The Timberwolves, who have only made it to the state playoffs a few times in the school’s history, lost the first three matches of the season before notching their first victory: a 5-2 win at Gallup.

East Mountain then dropped five straight games, including getting shut out three times. During that losing skid, the T’Wolves surrendered 22 goals while getting the ball in the net twice.

East Mountain’s Naloh Estrada colliding with Desert Academy’s goalkeeper during the T’Wolves Sept. 17 victory. Photo by G. Demarest.

On Sept. 17, the T’Wolves earned their second W of the season when they grinded out a 2-0 victory at home over the visiting Desert Academy Wildcats (3-4-1).

“It was time,” East Mountain head coach Matt Painter said after his team blanked the Wildcats in a fairly physical game.

Both teams lost a player to injury and each received yellow cards for rough play during the matchup.

It took 63 minutes before Ryan Lesperance’s header from 5 yards out broke a scoreless tie to give the T’Wolves a 1-0 advantage.

The goal came after an East Mountain corner kick bounced into a scrabble of players in front of the 6-yard area where Alejandro Perez tapped it toward Lesperance.

“I knocked it right over the goalie’s hands,” Lesperance said. “It’s only my second goal this season.”

Ten minutes later, East Mountain’s Jose Perez—who took 11 shots during the game but never found the back of the net—took the ball into the 18-yard box and passed it to Perez on the left side.

Perez got his second assist when he drilled a cross-pass to Tyler Burnette who kneed the ball into the net.

“Hondo [Alejandro] passed it and I finished it in the corner with my knee,” Burnette said.

Despite the T’Wolves’ 2-8 record, Painter said he’s pleased with how his team has been playing.

“We haven’t lost games because we suck,” Painter acknowledged. “We’ve lost games because of simple mistakes.”

Painter said his team’s strong points have been passing, communicating, and winning the ball, but he noted that he has a lot of young players who need to improve, especially with their shooting.

“I’ve got 11 kids, five sophomores and six freshmen, who’ve never played for me before, so we’re still building but I think we’re right where I expected us to be,” Painter said, adding, “This team has been a pleasure to coach, they’ve got really good camaraderie, and I’m happy where we’re at.”