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High Schools | BOYS' SOCCER PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Esperanza's Pugmire Has It All

March 27, 2004|John Ortega | Times Staff Writer

Some standout high school soccer forwards have outstanding speed. Others have very good technical skills with the ball. Senior B.J. Pugmire of Anaheim Esperanza has both.

So said Coach Juan Sanchez, whose Pomona Diamond Ranch team lost to Esperanza, 3-2, in a Southern Section Division I semifinal game March 2, when Pugmire scored two minutes into the 20-minute, sudden-death overtime period.

"He's so fast," Chavez said about Pugmire, The Times' boys' soccer player of the year. "And a kid who's that fast usually doesn't have the skills to go with it. But he did. He could beat you with his speed, but he could also beat you in the box with his skills."

Pugmire's speed and skills helped him tally a team-high 24 goals and 18 assists this season, including five goals and three assists in five playoff games. But his relentless desire to succeed might have been most crucial in leading Esperanza, a team that tied Fountain Valley for second in the Sunset League standings, to a 25-4-2 record and the Southern Section Division I championship.

"The guy does not get tired," said Esperanza defender Tim Jepson, the Southern Section Division I defensive player of the year and a close friend of Pugmire's since both were 4. "He can run forever and ever. I just think it's in his genes."

The friendly, outgoing Pugmire has two older sisters who combined to win six individual section titles in track and field and cross-country during their careers at Esperanza. And his younger sister, Dani Bree, is a freshman who helped the Esperanza girls' team win its third consecutive Orange County cross-country championship last October. But a dogged determination to outwork any of his opponents helped set Pugmire apart from most players this season.

That determination was evident in the first Sunset League game of the season, when Pugmire made one run after another up the right sideline in an effort to help his team score during a 2-0 loss to Fountain Valley. And it was evident in the Division I title game on March 6, when Pugmire made repeated runs up the field in the second half, even though Esperanza was leading Bell Gardens by its final 4-1 margin of victory.

"That's just the way he is," Esperanza Coach Kino Oaxaca said. "And it's not just in soccer. He makes a commitment to something and he follows through on it."

Pugmire's commitment to the Mormon faith led to his decision to attend Brigham Young, even though the school's men's soccer team does not compete at the intercollegiate level.

"It entered my mind at the end of my junior year," Pugmire said when asked about playing at the NCAA Division I level. "But ultimately I had to ask myself, 'Do I want to play soccer for the rest of my life?' And the answer is no.... I wish [BYU] had a better soccer program, but it's all right that they don't. It's a good academic school, it's a place where everyone in my family has gone and it's a place where I'll feel comfortable."

Chavez is one person who figures Pugmire could have been comfortable playing for just about any Division I program.

"When we played [Esperanza], I had two guys on him," Chavez said. "One guy was marking him and another was what I call a cover guy. His job was to pick him up if he got away from the first guy. But on his goal against us, he beat both of them."

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