Soccer in Colusa County has a long history of competitive play and a major contributor to that tradition is Colusa High School boys’ soccer and long time youth coach Dan Kiely, who is the subject of the fifth installment of the Coaches Corner series.
Kiely, the longest serving high school coach in the county with 23 years to his credit, has an overall record of 237-166-62, led his team to three NSCIF titles and was elected to the California Youth Soccer Association Hall of Fame last March.
Coming off the 2109-20 season that concluded with his most recent section championship, Kiely said that narrowing down his memorable experiences was definitely not an easy task due to the long term connections he has maintained over the years.
“Each team I have had the honor of coaching is special to me and I have fond memories of all of them, but I chose my first team as the head coach at Colusa High School, which was in 1996-97, and my championship team from 2015-16,” Kiely said.
In his inaugural season as a high school head coach, Kiely’s team finished 9-1 to claim its first ever Butte View League title, then advanced to the section finals after edging Orland 2-1 in the semifinal round.
While Colusa came up short 1-0 to Lassen in the championship game, the team is distinctive in Kiely’s mind for other reasons.
“The first thing that stands out to me, and that I’m proud of, is that eight of the 20 players I had that season played for me on Colusa’s club team from under 12 through high school,” said Kiely. “What impressed me most though, was that they always played with desire and determination and showed great respect to each other and myself.”
Defense set the tone that year, spearheaded by the BVL’s Most Valuable Defensive Player Guillermo Ramirez.
Joining Ramirez was a group of All-League defensemen, including Alfonzo Perez, Jeff Harper and Jesse Garcia, who Kiely remembers for the passion they displayed each time they took the field.
On the attack, the team got strong performances from two All-League forwards in Gabe Poston on the right side, and Brazilian exchange student Cristiano Melo in the center.
With his 2015-16 team, Kiely had much the same feeling having coached nearly half of his 22-man squad for years in the youth ranks.
After going 6-1-3 to claim the Sacramento Valley League crown, the RedHawks then prevailed in what Kiely described as “dramatic fashion” over Esparto in the NSCIF Division III title game after surviving four overtime periods and a round of penalty kicks.
In the final two matches of the season, Kiely recalled the play of goalkeeper Sal Lara, who early in the season unselfishly dropped back from forward into the box, then proceeded to make 115 saves, none bigger than the four in PK situations, which first lifted the RedHawks to victory over Williams in the semifinals, and then again just days later in the championship win against Esparto.
In front of Lara, Gumer Salazar and Pedro Lopez anchored the defense and also provided leadership to the team as a whole, while Jorge Hernandez contributed steadfast play at fullback as well.
Heraclio Lopez and Jorge Aguilera, along with underclassmen Christian Velez and Mario Galvan were a skilled combination that effectively solidified the midfield.
Forwards Edgar Sanchez and Ricardo Bautista paced the RedHawks on offense with 12 goals apiece, while Aguilera pitched in with eight as the RedHawks completed the year 15-2-5.
In his over two decades on the sideline, this brief look at two of his most memorable teams just scratches the surface, because as Kiely explained, ties run deep in his soccer family.
“I could mention many more players and teams from all my years of coaching. They all, each and every one, holds a special place in my memories and my heart. I could not have coached as long as I have if it weren’t for the great players and teams along the way. The sense of family and passion for the sport can be felt at all our soccer games as past players return to support the new players. I have remained close to many of my former players. It’s been quite a journey and I can only hope that the players know how much they mean to me.”
For now however, Kiely and the reigning section champion RedHawks wait in the hope of returning to pitch in 2021 and adding another chapter to the Colusa High School soccer family album. ■