Legacy's stock rising quickly

Legacy High didn't exist the last time a school other than Centennial won a Northwest League boys soccer title.

Since Legacy opened in 2006, Longhorns coach Jose Gomez has gradually built his program. He's molded it into a contender for a league title, perhaps more.

Legacy has rocketed to the top of the Northwest standings a month into the season. It has won all six of its matches, all in Northwest play, and is the league's only team without a loss or draw on its record.

"It feels good because we worked hard for it," senior defender Ricky Acero said. "We only opened four years ago. We've come a long way."

Such a long way, in fact, the Longhorns now think a state title is within reach.

"When we played Cimarron on Friday, it really hit me that we can take state if we keep working together like we do and play as a team," sophomore forward Saul Aguirre said, referring to a 3-1 win over the Spartans last week.

Centennial has won or shared every Northwest title since 2000 and owned the league's No.  1 seed for the Sunset Region playoffs every year in that stretch.

Even with only three seniors in its starting lineup, Legacy might be poised to end that streak. The Longhorns made a statement by opening the season with a 3-0 win over Centennial on Sept. 13, their first of four shutouts this season.

Gomez cautioned that Legacy still has plenty to work on before the postseason, but he doesn't mind his players already thinking about challenging for a state title.

"Those are goals that every program should have," Gomez said. "Whether you attain them, it's all in how you work at it."

The Longhorns' early-season success is tied to Aguirre's emergence as a dynamic finisher.

The sophomore is among the area leaders in goals scored with eight in six matches. He also has four assists.

"Phenomenal, just phenomenal," Gomez said. "He's a special kid. He's been playing at the club level, which has helped him quite a bit.

"He's leading the team in goals, but we've been feeding him. We've gotten him the ball, and he's been able to finish, which is what he does."

Gomez said Aguirre augmented his skill set by improving his conditioning since his freshman season.

"You need to be conditioned to run for the full 80 (minutes)," Gomez said. "He pretty much stays with it. He's got a great work ethic."

Legacy gave itself a huge cushion in the Northwest standings with a 2-0 home win over Palo Verde on Tuesday. The Longhorns have 18 points, five more than second-place Centennial.

"I feel we have a great team, and we can really do something," junior goalkeeper Ramon Carvajal said. "Our first goal is to win our (league)."

Carvajal has recorded three of Legacy's four shutouts. He credited Acero, the senior sweeper, with leading the defense.

"I know Ricky's a great player. That gives me a lot of confidence," Carvajal said. "It's really hard to get past him."

The Longhorns won a playoff match in the program's second season, reaching the Sunset semifinals in 2007. They returned to the playoffs in 2008 only to be eliminated in the first round.

Last year, Legacy struggled with injuries and academic eligibility, losing three of its final four matches to miss the playoffs.

A return to the postseason appears to be on the horizon for the Longhorns. Whether they can claim a league or state title will depend on their focus.

"We've just got to keep working hard, on the field and in the classroom," Gomez said. "We're off to a good start, they know that, but we can't rest on what we've done."

Contact reporter Tristan Aird at taird@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203.