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Small in stature, big on talent

Daily Pilot High School Boys’ Athlete of the Week

Estancia High boys' soccer player Kevin Pizarro might be just 5-7 and 135 pounds, but he finished with a team-leading 11 goals and 11 assists during the regular season.

February 14, 2014|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
  • Estancia High forward Kevin Pizarro led the Eagles to their third straight CIF playoff appearance.
Estancia High forward Kevin Pizarro led the Eagles to… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

It's rare to see Kevin Pizarro get embarrassed on a soccer field. He's that talented as a player.

Yet, embarrassed is how Pizarro said he felt when during a December practice he lined up with the rest of his Estancia High teammates. As the Eagles prepared to wrap things up, Coach Robert Castellano introduced them to a special guest, Gannon Burks.

Burks used to run the program for six seasons, before Castellano succeeded him four seasons ago. When Burks led the Eagles, players held a high opinion of themselves in the first couple of seasons.

"They thought they were superstars," said Castellano, who used to be Burks' top assistant.

Burks came up with an idea to bring the Eagles back down to earth. Castellano remembers how Burks asked each player, 'All right, you think you're a superstar? Show me you're a star."

In front of everyone, Burks made the players perform an exercise, which involved them jumping while yelling, "I'm a star!" The stunt, Castellano said, made players laugh, and it humbled them.

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It had been a while since Castellano asked Burks to address his team in this fashion, and Burks reminded him two months ago. Toward the end of that December practice, Burks came out. When he introduced himself to the players and a new drill for them to do, Pizarro couldn't believe it.

"You got to be kidding me?" Pizarro said. "We have to do this?"

The youngest players on the team went first. With Pizarro being a sophomore, his turn came up quickly.

Castellano said Pizarro actually did awfully well during his "I'm-a-star!" leaping act. Maybe that's because Pizarro has played like a star for the Eagles this season.

Estancia is in the CIF Southern Section playoffs for the third straight season because of Pizarro. The forward leads the team with 11 goals and 11 assists.

At 5 feet 7 and 135 pounds, Pizarro is usually the smallest player on the field. Don't let his size fool you. He has experience, and at an early age, Pizarro said he competed against men as old as 40. His two older brothers — Chris Pizarro, who played for Estancia, and Juan Gonzalez, who played for Newport Harbor — were also tough on him.

"They made him grow up very quick," said Castellano, who has Chris Pizarro around to help train the goalkeepers. "Chris is always talking in Kevin's ear. Kevin scored two goals last week in one game, and his brother was like, 'You should've scored more.' "

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