The Ceres Courier’s choice for Team of the Year was a no-brainer.
Ceres High’s varsity boys soccer program experienced a major turnaround this winter.
“There was competition at practice,” third-year head coach Danny Barragan said. “It helped make the team better. The kids knew they had to work hard and stay focused.”
The Bulldogs compiled a program-record 20-2-4 overall record.
Ceres High claimed its second Sac-Joaquin Section crown.
The Bulldogs advanced to the Northern California Regional Championship Tournament for the first time.
Ceres High had its team-record 16-game unbeaten streak snapped by 2019 NorCal champion Madera South.
“We had a combination of everything this year—skill, attitude, discipline and dedication,” Barragan said.
Ceres High outscored its opponents 85-18, including 55-7 in Western Athletic Conference play.
Seven of the Bulldogs’ 11 starters earned all-conference honors, including Most Valuable Player Saul Ruiz, first-team selections Victor Hurtado, Ivan Arita and Andres Madriz, and second-teamers Luis Medina, Leo Trujillo and Rafael Guzman.
Ceres High collected 11 wins, no losses and three ties while finishing in second place in the WAC standings. “To be able to go this far without a lethal striker is pretty surprising,” Barragan said. “Our defender (Ruiz) was our top scorer.”
The Bulldogs won just a total of eight games under Barragan’s guidance the previous two seasons.
“This year was fun,” he said. “I always looked forward to practice. I had a really good group of kids. They were coachable.”
Ceres High’s crowning achievement this season was claiming the Division-III section crown.
The Bulldogs edged the East Union Lancers 2-1 in the finals.
Ruiz scored the winning goal late in the game. “I’m sure every coach’s objective is to bring a blue banner to their high school,” Barragan said.
“It feels amazing,” Ruiz added. “The last two years, we didn’t even make it to playoffs.”
The 2018-19 Bulldogs top the list of Ceres High’s greatest boys soccer teams. “The possibility always exists,” Barragan said when asked if this season’s program records would be broken in the future.