There must be something in the water in this western Fresno County community known for its cantaloupes.
Two years ago, Daniel Trejo set the California high school soccer scoring record at Mendota High School with 200 goals, including 65 his senior season. He now stars at Cal State Northridge. Mendota retired his No. 10 jersey upon his graduation.
Trejo’s brother, Javier Trejo, scored 56 goals in the 2009-10 season.
Sophomore striker Alex Ochoa is stepping into the spotlight now with 52 goals in a 21-4-1 season that includes one more game: The CIF Central Section Division V championship match Friday (Feb. 22). Ochoa scored 19 goals in 15 games in his freshman season.
Getting there wasn’t easy.
Ochoa scored an early, first-half goal and then watched Tuesday night (Feb. 19) as sophomore teammate Ángel Meléndez pounced on a loose ball in the first of two overtime periods to escape with a 2-1 overtime win against Riverdale High.
“Riverdale had a strong midfield, and they made it hard for us in the first half,” said first-year Mendota High head coach Daniel Acosta. “We did a better job in the second half.”
The Aztecs’ reward: A match against a 22-2-4 Garces team that has 5-1 and 3-0 wins against Mission Oak and San Joaquín Memorial, respectively, this season. Mendota lost 3-1 and 2-0, respectively, against those teams.
Team success, said Ochoa, is more important than individual accolades.
“I don’t care that much as long as we win,” said Ochoa following Tuesday’s closely contested match against a Riverdale team that ended its season 19-6-2. The Cowboys lost 2-1 in a first-round playoff match to Mendota last season.
“It’s all about the team. We work as a team,” said Acosta. “At the beginning, I told them we’re going to be a team. We don’t play individual.”
Yet, it is difficult to overlook Ochoa’s scoring and passing talents.
“He’s improving every day,” said the first-year coach.
Ochoa and Trejo, said Acosta, are different types of soccer players.
Trejo “is more a goal scorer. He was a really top scorer,” he said.
Ochoa “is a dribbler with speed,” said Acosta. “For sure, he’s improving every day.”
Ochoa, who hones his soccer skills by playing adult club soccer, wants Mendota to be known as a mecca for high school soccer, much like what McFarland High has done for cross country.
Doing so, he hopes to have Aztec Stadium filled with supporters. Tuesdsay night, the Riverdale fans almost outnumbered the home team’s fans.
Last season, Mendota lost 4-1 in the section finals to César Chávez High of Delano.
Acosta, the coach, is eyeing a section title.
“Everything is different (in the playoffs),” he said. “We’ll give it all in the final.”
He’ll have Acosta on his side on Friday. Plus, another two seasons.
And, if Acosta hangs around long enough, Ochoa has younger twin brothers who also play soccer.
Are they better than the sophomore?
“I hope not,” quipped Ochoa.