Zebras head into league play Jan. 10

Newer, younger – stronger?
By: Jim Linsdau, Sports Editor
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Boys Soccer Preseason Standings

Lincoln (0-0-0, 8-0-1) win over Mesa Verde 7-0

Colfax (0-0-0, 6-3-0) loss to Lindhurst 4-0

Bear River (0-0-0, 2-2-0) win over Golden Sierra 2-0

Placer (0-0-0, 3-4-1) loss to Calaveras 3-1

Center (0-0-0, 1-4-2) loss to Highlands 3-2

Foothill (0-0-0, 0-3-2) loss to Highlands 4-1


Any Lincoln High boys soccer fans who think the Fighting Zebras will have a down year after graduating 14 seniors off a Division III CIF Sac-Joaquin Section championship team need to think again.

Nine games into the preseason; Lincoln is undefeated and has an 8-0-1 record. Seven of those teams are Division III or higher. The Zebras defeated Pittsburg, a Division I team, out of the Bay Area.

“We’ve had some good games where we were able to see what we had as a team. I mean, going in losing 14 players, you don’t know what you’re going to get the next year because it’s high school soccer,” said head coach George Bonilla. “I was fortunate enough to get about five or six kids who were able to make an impact on the team right away.”

Lincoln’s only tie came in their first game playing Whitney. Since then, they’ve gone 8-0 with a 23-4 scoring differential. If that wasn’t convincing as to the Zebras’ potential this season, one of their leading scorers plays on the defense.

“Payton Buell is my left defender,” Bonilla said. “I give them the freedom to go up and attack whenever they have opportunities so he’s been able to score a few goals.”

Bonilla’s roster has gone from being predominantly seniors last year to six seniors, eight juniors, four sophomores and a freshman this season. Although it might seem the younger players would suffer intimidation on varsity, Bonilla said three of his sophomores have made an immediate impact on the team’s success.

His goalkeeper is sophomore Maclean Learned. Sophomore Christian Villanueva plays forward for is club team, but made the move to defense for Lincoln and has excelled there.

“We felt (Villanueva) would be a better fit for the team in that particular position … because of his vision for the game,” said Bonilla. “He is able to read and position himself better than some of the kids that have played defense before.”

Bonilla said Villanueva has been happy playing defense.

Pioneer Valley League play begins Jan. 10 at Foothill. The Mustangs have struggled this season, but Bonilla said his club tends to ignore records and simply plays to win no matter the opponent.

It’s a quality that should serve them well moving up to the Division III Foothill Valley League next season.