Benefield: Fast-paced Santa Rosa Junior College men's soccer team on a roll

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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.

“It’s a whole lot of fun. I just pass to them and see some magic happen,” he said.

The Bear Cubs have scored 38 goals in nine games and they have shared the wealth remarkably well.

Fontanelli has six goals, as does freshman Carlos Lemus, who prepped at Elsie Allen. Rigo Barragan, a Windsor High grad, has seven goals and five assists. Sanchez has five goals and five assists. Soto has three goals.

On Friday, the Bear Cubs had three different scorers and had tons of other chances. The officially tally sheet showed 24 shots for the Bear Cubs.

In the first half, the Bear Cubs soared three headers over the crossbar all within what felt like minutes.

It was just about the only constructive criticism one could find with the Bear Cubs, barring a few miscues on the back line that let Modesto get off a couple of shots that they probably should not have been able to.

But Kinahan, perhaps buoyed by his team’s 7-1-1 record and prodigious ability to put the ball in the back of the net, was not put off by the misses.

“I think the fact that we are creating chances — we are doing more things right than wrong,” he said. “To expect them to finish every time is ridiculous.”

Also ridiculous? Twelve goals in a game. Five goals in a game three separate outings. Three goals twice. It’s not supposed to be this easy.

“We’re good,” Kinahan said. “We are like 16 deep.”

Fontanelli said that may well be the Bear Cubs’ secret weapon. Kinahan has been using substitutes liberally and when the fresh faces come in, opponents will sometimes expect a drop in the pace or skill, Fontanelli said. That’s when they turn the screws.

“People don’t expect us to be so deep, so when they go in, the other team is shocked,” he said. “You see subs come in and I know they are going to working hard, the intensity is going to stay the same, the competition stays high.”

Fontanelli said Friday’s win — and the dominating fashion in which it was delivered — sets the tone as the team ventures into a stout Big 8 Conference. The Bear Cubs host American River at 1 p.m. Tuesday and travel to Cosumnes River at 4 p.m. Friday.

Fontanelli said Friday’s win is just another bit of proof of what the Bear Cubs can do this season. Like he said, “It’s all positive.”

“We came out busting fast and (got) a great result,” he said.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud, “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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