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Joey Chica a huge part of Miners' success

Junior player setting the bar high at El Diamante

12:00 AM, Jan. 31, 2013 EST

El Diamante's Joey Chica (11) plays against Redwood in a WYL boys soccer match on Tuesday at El Diamante. / Ron Holman

Whether it is kicking a football over the crossbar for an extra point or kicking a soccer ball under the crossbar for a goal, El Diamante junior Joey Chica has the powerful left leg to get the job done.

If you ask Chica whether an extra point or penalty kick is easier, he'll say a penalty kick without hesitation.

"Kicking a penalty kick is way easier than a field goal," he said. "On a penalty kick, it is just me and the goalie. On a field goal, you have to worry about those big guys coming after you. I'm worried about that and I'm hoping my leg doesn't get hurt."

In his first year at El Diamante, Chica has had a positive effect on both the football and soccer teams.

On the gridiron, Chica played an important role. According to the stats on MaxPreps.com, he finished with 35 extra points, but more importantly, he consistently kicked the ball off into the end zone for touchbacks and prevented opposing teams from making big plays on special teams.

His impact has been much more noticeable on the pitch.

He already set the school's single-season goal record. The previous record was 17. Chica is already up to 25 goals with three regular season games and the postseason left on the schedule.

Chica transferred to El Diamante from Hanford High School.

El Diamante boys soccer coach Agustin Gonzalez said he was excited when he found out Chica was going to be a Miner.

"I was on campus and I saw him walking and I said, 'What are you doing here?' He said, 'I go here.' I've seen him play. Everybody knows the kid. I was excited and nervous at the same time. I was worried the boys would just want to look for Chica, but the boys and him have adapted to how we want to play."

Chica said the move to Visalia was a family decision. It wasn't easy at first, but football and soccer allowed him to adjust to life at a new school.

"It was tough at first, leaving my friends, but I knew it had to be done," Chica said. "I had to come with my family. I had to make new friends just like anybody else would. At first, it was hard to make friends, but I knew a few guys I played club soccer with. I knew I could hang out with them and slowly make friends as the days went by."

The Miners are happy to have him. Along with a talented group of young players, Chica has the Miners in contention for their first WYL title in soccer.

El Diamante is 7-2 in league and trails Golden West by one game in the standings.

"If you look at the stats, he has [22] assists as well," Gonzalez said. "If you look at him, he doesn't try to force it. He goes with the flow of the game, and when he gets that ball in space, you see that razzle dazzle he has."

Chica is a junior, so he still has time to figure out what he wants to do in the future.

He is listed at 5-foot-7 and 140 pounds on the El Diamante football roster -- both figures might be a little generous -- but plays much larger than that because of the cannon he has as a left leg.

Kicking for a college football team is something that might be in Chica's future, but he would prefer to play soccer at the collegiate level.

He said he has already been in some contact with UC Davis, nothing major, but it is a start.

In the meantime, he is hoping to lead the Miners somewhere they have never been: the top of the WYL.

"It has been a fun year," Chica said. "We started rough because we're young. As the days have gone by, coach has told us to mature more and to take this more seriously. Do that and the wins will start coming."

A look ahead

Here are some story lines to keep an eye on as the final week of the regular season nears:

Mustangs eyeing postseason: The Tulare Western boys need one more win to clinch a berth in the postseason. They are 4-2-1 in the East Yosemite League and 9-7-4.

"It would be huge," Tulare Western coach Michael Capote said. "We lost quite a few seniors and only had one or two guys back who played quality minutes. It would be huge to make the playoffs because we were pretty green to start the year."

It won't be easy to get that one win. The Mustangs close out the season against Mission Oak, Monache and rival Tulare Union.

EYL girls race coming down to the wire: The Tulare Union girls move closer and closer to an eighth straight East Yosemite League title with each passing win. They defeated Delano 5-0 on Wednesday to improve to 6-0-1 in league. Hoping to derail those title hopes will be crosstown rivals Mission Oak and Tulare Western. The Redskins do get both teams at home Feb. 5 and Feb. 7, respectively.

Rangers one win away: The Redwood girls are one win away from winning a second straight WYL title outright. The Rangers already clinched a share of the title thanks to rival Mt. Whitney's 3-0 win over Lemoore. Redwood's first chance to seal the deal is today at Golden West. Redwood then closes out the regular season at Mt. Whitney on Feb. 8.

Back-to-back for the Trailblazers: Golden West shared the WYL boys championship with Mt. Whitney last year. They would love nothing more than to win it outright this year. That outcome may have to wait until the final day of the regular season when they host El Diamante on Feb. 8. If Golden West can beat Redwood and Lemoore in its next two games, it would assure itself of at least a share of another WYL title.

EYL up for grabs : With the Monache boys losing their first EYL game of the season against Mission Oak, it put Delano directly in the driver's seat for the EYL title. If Delano was able to beat Tulare Union on Wednesday, it would move into first place.

Monache hosts Delano on Friday. The winner of that game will likely go on to win the league title.




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