Benefield: Fast-paced Santa Rosa Junior College men's soccer team on a roll
The funniest thing I heard all day Friday was multiple Santa Rosa Junior College Bear Cubs yelling “Man on” to midfielder Adrian Fontanelli.
Man on, men on, multiple men draped all over — none of it mattered to Fontanelli, the freshman midfielder out of Rancho Cotate High who makes the Bear Cubs soccer team go.
“He’s a special player,” Bear Cubs coach Marty Kinahan said.
Fontanelli didn’t score Friday in the Bear Cubs’ 3-0 win over previously unbeaten Modesto Junior College (6-1-1, 0-1) in the Big 8 Conference opener for both teams, but he didn’t need to. The Bear Cubs got first-half goals from freshman Montgomery grad Alan Soto and freshman Ridgway High grad Alan Sanchez. The Bear Cubs made it 3-0 in the 72nd minute when freshman Kevin Lira, a Casa Grande grad, slotted home a pass from freshman Jalen Roman, who is the former quarterback of the Windsor High Jaguars.
But Fontanelli needed to be on the field. When Kinahan finally pulled him with the game put away and less than 10 minutes to play, you could just feel the difference.
“When I took him out, everything changes, because nobody can do what he does,” Kinahan said. “He just settles everybody down, he works harder than everybody else, he’s unselfish.
“He’s the heart of this team,” he said.
And Kinahan kept coming back to this: “He works so friggin’ hard.”
Early in the first half there was a series in which Fontanelli made a pass, looked like he got fouled to the ground, got up to see that there was a turnover, battled back to win the ball back and then again found a target player to hit with a pinpoint pass. In my notes is the word: “Workhorse.”
Kinahan recalled a moment in the team’s emotional, chippy game with San Francisco City College on Tuesday when Kinahan checked in with Fontanelli because he’d been in the whole game.
“I said, ‘You good?’” Kinahan said. “He said, ‘I’m good, coach,’ but he definitely needed a breather. But he would not come off the field.”
Good thing, because it was Fontanelli who scored the tying goal in the closing seconds of the game to secure a tie and a point for the Bear Cubs.
“(He) scored a wicked goal from 35 yards out, a free kick. He upper-V’d it. It’s one of the best goals I’ve ever seen,” Kinahan said.
“He’s fun as hell to watch. He’s just a pleasure,” he said.
His teammates must certainly agree, because Fontanelli passes for pleasure. And his work rate in the central midfield is stunning. He’s exhausting to watch.
“My role is to just to keep everyone engaged really, must make sure everyone is focused the whole 90 minutes,” he said.
And he knows what’s at stake at his position if he gets too tricky or loose with the ball. But don’t fret — that doesn’t happen.
“We get attacked on really fast,” he said.
Fontanelli, who describes himself as a “pass-first” player, is in the catbird seat with this team. The array of offensive talent is borderline ridiculous. Hence the seven assists he has on the season.