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Red Devils' home field disadvantage is proving advantageous Phillip Brents | Fri, Jan 20 2012 11:48 AM

Bulldozers and landscaping graters were originally supposed to be refurbishing the football/soccer field at Sweetwater High School’s Gail Devers Stadium about this time of the year. But cancellation of contracts by the Sweetwater Union High School District and a rethinking of plans have forced a delay and a reboot in the bidding process.

In the meantime, the eyesore of the school’s athletic field remains intact and it’s something the SuHi boys soccer team has learned to live with — and win with.

The Red Devils improved to 5-0 this season on the stadium’s ugly, lumpy pitch by recording a 1-0 upset victory against the visiting Southwest Raiders on Jan. 11. The win raised Sweetwater’s record to 3-0 in South Bay League play and 7-4 overall.

Southwest, which captured the season-opening Coronado tournament with a 1-0 victory against defending Division I state champion San Clemente, fell to 0-1 in its league opener.

Red Devil supporters watching from the sideline called it a “great win” for the team this season.
“Our boys have learned how to win on this field,” SuHi coach Jose Flores said. “We have players with a lot of heart and desire who play the whole game with intensity.”

The intensity and desire of the visiting Raiders certainly could not be questioned but the field’s uneven terrain had to play a factor in the outcome — even if only a small one.

Red Devil coach Hiram Villafana echoed Flores’ comments. “We want to win the league title but it’s up to how our guys perform on the field. If we can duplicate the type of game we played today (against Southwest), then I think we can go far toward reaching that goal.”

Martin Pino scored on a direct free kick taken from 10 yards outside the box midway through the first half.

The Raiders controlled much of the territorial play thereafter but were stymied by Sweetwater goalkeepers Tomas Martinez (seven saves in the first half) and Ricardo Hernandez (10 saves in the second half).

The Devils managed eight shots in the game.

The goal was Pino’s team-leading seventh of the season while Hernandez lowered his goalkeeping average to 0.42 in sharing the shutout.

Sweetwater took the road for its next two matches, with mixed results. The Devils remained unbeaten in league play following last Friday’s 1-1 tie at Castle Park (4-8-1 overall) but dropped a decisive 3-1 setback at Chula Vista on Wednesday that allowed the Spartans (4-1 in league, 10-5-1 overall) move into first place.

The National City team returns home for a match this coming Wednesday against San Ysidro (1-2, 3-3-1) — and none too soon.

The Devils kicked off league play with a 3-0 victory against visiting Montgomery on Jan. 4 as Angel Lopez scored twice and Pino scored once. Sweetwater then captured a 3-1 victory at Mar Vista on the strength of single goals by Lopez, Pino and Carlos Hernandez.

The Red Devils’ 7-5-1 overall record is impacted in a negative way by an 0-3 showing at the Southern California Classic over the winter break. Besides its three league wins, Sweetwater’s other victories this season have come against Mt. Miguel (3-1 on Nov. 29), San Marcos (1-0 on Dec. 2),  Eastlake (3-0 on Dec. 8) and Hoover (4-1 on Jan. 2).

“We’ve done well overall this season but we had a hard time playing in a tough tournament in Oceanside over the winter break,” Flores said.

For the Devils, home is where the heart is.

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