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Ceres High booters earn all-MMC honors
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Ceres High boys soccer coach Joe Byrne had lofty expectations for Victor Perez.

The senior striker delivered.

Perez tallied 25 goals and three assists in leading the Bulldogs to a third-place finish in the Modesto Metro Conference (8-6-1). He scored 39 goals and dished out five assists in 25 regular season games.

"He brought confidence to the whole team," Byrne said. "They knew anytime Victor was in the game, we had a good possibility of scoring."

On Nov. 1, six coaches from the MMC gathered at Davis High School for 90 minutes to honor a host of players.

Perez and five of his teammates were awarded, including Fernando Vargas, Genaro Arana, Eduardo Aguilar, Luis Olivares and Melky Calderon.

Perez earned first-team, all-league honors.

"He was actually in the running for league MVP," Byrne said. "He finished second. That has more to do with how the team finished."

Perez was unstoppable. Dribbling past three, four and five defenders was routine.

"Every team out there knew he was our most dangerous player," Byrne said. "And he scored at least one goal against every team the third time around. I think that's really impressive.

"Nobody could stop him."

Perez was a second-team, all-league selection in 2003. He scored 14 goals.

"Victor had nine goals in the last six games last year," Byrne said. "He carried that over this year."

Asked where Perez ranks on Ceres High's all-time greatest soccer player list, Byrne said: "He's definitely top two. The only other player that we ever had close was Mario Ramirez."

Ramirez, a 2000 Ceres High graduate, led the Bulldogs in scoring as a junior and senior. He was in the running for league MVP during his senior year.

"Overall, I think I would have to place him (Victor) as the top offensive player that I have ever seen at Ceres High," Byrne said. "He was also a very good defender. He worked very hard at it."

Perez shouldn't have any trouble succeeding at the next level.

"Not at all," Byrne said.

"I highly anticipate he will play in the (high-school) all-star game this year. I would be real surprised if the Modesto Junior College coach is not pushing him real hard to go there."

Vargas, a four-year varsity starter, earned first-team, all-league honors. "He's been one of our strongest players for a couple of years," Byrne said.

Vargas had six goals and five assists in league. He changed positions at the beginning of the season. Vargas played offensive midfielder for three years.

"He moved up top for us this year because we needed someone to pair up with Victor," Byrne said. "He did a good job filling that spot."

Vargas is being recruited by a handful of colleges, including UC Irvine and Santa Clara.

Arana and Aguilar were second-team, all-league selections.

Arana, an offensive midfielder, had two goals and four assists in league. The senior earned honorable-mention honors in 2002 and 2003.

Aguilar, a senior right midfielder, had four goals and three assists in league.

"He played a big part in our offense," Byrne said.

Olivares and Calderon were honorable-mention selections.

Olivares played stopper and defensive midfielder. The senior had two assists.

Calderon played right fullback. The junior had one assist.

"The offensive players tend to get all of the credit," Byrne said. "Without the defenders in the back what the offense does wouldn't matter much."

Perez wins MVP award

The Bulldogs held their award banquet in the Ceres High cafeteria on Tuesday, Nov. 16.

Byrne recapped the 2004 season, recognized each player and handed out a host of awards during the 90-minute ceremony. He also bid farewell to his players.

"I won't be coming back this time," said Byrne, who decided to retire following a seven-year stint as head coach.

Byrne took a break from coaching in 2000.

The Bulldogs posted a winning record in league the last three years.

They made the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs for the first time in school history in 2003. And almost earned a postseason berth this year and in 2002.

"We missed the playoffs by one game each year," Byrne said.

Ceres tied for third in the MMC with Modesto High at 8-6-1 this season. The top two teams, including Johansen, which Ceres beat twice, and Beyer, made the playoffs.

"They did a good job of playing with class," Byrne said.

Perez, Ceres' leading scorer, won the Most Valuable Player award.

"It was pretty much an overwhelming choice for both me and the team," Byrne said.

Omar Montes won the Most Improved Player award. The junior defender played sparingly.

"I let the players choose that award with a little oversight," Byrne said.

"I think they made a good selection. Omar worked really hard all year long." - By DALE BUTLER / Staff Reporter of The Ceres (Calif.) Courier