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Cortez sandwich and soccer artist

Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week

Estancia senior, who works at Subway, has led boys' soccer program to CIF semifinals for first time in 14 seasons.

March 01, 2014|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
  • Estancia High's Abarham Cortez (15) is the Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week.
Estancia High's Abarham Cortez (15) is the Daily… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

The place the Estancia High boys' soccer team frequents is where Abarham Cortez, one of its players, works. Subway is the spot the Eagles bond off the field.

Coaches and teammates say they enjoy watching Cortez make them a sandwich. They joke that he's a sandwich artist after all.

The plays Cortez has been making on the field lately are also artistic. Those are what the Eagles admire the most, him serving up goals with his right or left foot, not foot-long sandwiches behind a counter.

Cortez can score with either foot, and with his head. He used his head to produce a game-winning goal in one of the Eagles' two CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoff matches last week. On the other goal, he performed a scissor kick.

The Subway diet is working for Cortez, a senior midfielder, and Estancia. The Eagles (16-5-5) are making their first semifinal appearance in 14 seasons on Tuesday, when they play host to Baldwin Park (19-4-1) at 5 p.m.

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Out of the four teams in the semifinals, the Eagles have taken the longest path, having to start in the wild-card round. They aren't league champions like Baldwin Park (Valle Vista), Pasadena Marshall (Alpha) and Santiago (Garden Grove).

Looking back, Cortez believes failing to win the Orange Coast League helped him and the team. How the Eagles poorly closed out league play left a bad taste in their mouths.

Cortez admits he had a lot do with it. He hasn't been 100% healthy because of a right gluteal strain. Then his coach, Robert Castellano, got on Cortez's butt.

With two matches left in league, the Eagles stayed in the hunt for a title, until they met defending league champion Godinez and suffered a 4-0 loss, their worst of the season. The match on the road wasn't one of Cortez's finer moments.

One match remained, at home against Calvary Chapel. By the time Estancia stepped on the field against a winless team, third place was the best it could finish. That mattered to Cortez because the Eagles weren't playing for first or second and it affected his play.

"I wasn't giving it my all," Cortez said.

The coaching staff noticed. And at halftime, in front of the entire team, the coaches called out Cortez, who is 6-foot-2 and the tallest player on the team.

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