Super sophomore Kamani Hill continued his amazing scoring run on Tuesday, racking up a hat trick in Berkeley High’s 4-1 win over El Cerrito in boys’ soccer.
Hill now has 11 goals in Berkeley’s first three ACCAL games. The ’Jackets (4-1-1 overall, 3-0 ACCAL) came on strong after a shaky start to beat the Gauchos (3-6, 2-1), scoring two goals in each half of play while holding El Cerrito to just three shots in the game.
“We’re starting to click, to get more consistent,” said Berkeley head coach Janu Juarez, who returns just three starters from last year’s league co-champs “We reached all of our objectives today.”
Juarez has structured this year’s team to build from the back, even though none of the three returners plays regularly at fullback. That meant teaching an entirely new backline to keep possession of the ball until an opening becomes available, a skill most defenders don’t learn at a young age.
Against El Cerrito on Tuesday, young fullbacks such as Chris Darby, Harris Cohn and Kevin Price swung the ball from side to side, probing for weaknesses in the Gaucho scheme with the kind of confidence Juarez has been looking for all year.
“I feel very good about my young guys,” he said. “We start from the back, and we were able to keep possession under pressure.”
The game started haphazardly, with the attack spilling into both ends El Cerrito got the first good scoring chance, but Berkeley goalkeeper David Present-Thomas managed to palm the shot past his post for a corner kick. The ’Jackets looked a little to eager on offense and were called for three offsides infractions in the first 10 minutes, but Hill was a force, working for three shots that were all saved by El Cerrito goalie Michael Gonzalez.
The first goal of the game came in the 24th minute, as Berkeley’s David Ngov brought the ball inside from the left sideline, beating two defenders to set up a wide-open Hill. Hill crossed up Gonzalez with the shot and the goalie slipped on the damp turf as the ball hit the back of the net for a 1-0 Berkeley lead.
Hill showed his full arsenal minutes later but just missed scoring, juking past two Gauchos on a long run before rocketing a shot off the crossbar.
Berkeley scored again just before halftime, as a Willie Vega free kick found midfielder Liam Reilly in a crowd. Reilly put the ball past Gonzalez for the goal, but both Gonzalez and El Cerrito sweeper Ryan DelaRosa took offense at the score, taking cheap shots at Reilly after the ball was away. The Gauchos got a talking-to from the referee, but tensions would remain high for the rest of the game.
The ’Jackets nearly scored on their first possession of the second half, as Darby headed a corner kick just over the bar.
Senior Chris Davis, who was held out of the starting lineup with an illness, came into the game and nearly scored immediately, just putting a breakaway shot outside the post. But Davis got an assist on the next goal, putting a flick-header to Hill’s feet for an open shot that Hill finished with clinical coolness. Hill capped his hat trick shortly after when Giovanni Garcia-Perez made a long run down the right side, then cut inside before sliding the ball to Hill.
The Gauchos were able to pull back one goal late in the game as forward Nate Kauffman was taken down in the Berkeley box. Spencer Selak slammed home the ensuing penalty kick, but it was far too late for El Cerrito to have any hope of catching Hill and the ’Jackets.
“Kamani did a lot of work over the summer with his dad, and it’s paying off,” said Juarez. “He has a chance to be one of the best players I’ve ever worked with. He’s got focus, skill, good work rate, and he’s a consistent threat.”