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Daily Pilot Cup: Beware of Rea Sharks

COSTA MESA — As the first half wound down, players on the Rea Elementary School fifth- and sixth-grade boys' soccer team began chewing on candy bars. Coach Ryan Baker didn't like their choice to refuel.

There was still another 25 minutes to play in the second-round gold division game at the Daily Pilot Cup Thursday.

"I don't want to see the Snickers again," said Baker before cracking a smile on the sideline at the Costa Mesa Farm Complex. "I'd eat one but I'm allergic to peanuts."

One thing Baker isn't allergic to is winning.

Baker has Rea hitting on all cylinders again. The Sharks look primed to win their ninth title in the last 10 years in the fifth- and sixth-grade top division.

Rea easily beat Eastbluff, 5-0, to set up a quarterfinal date against a school Baker also works at as a physical education teacher during the week.

On Wednesdays and Fridays, Baker is at Lincoln. He can be found at Rea on Mondays and Tuesdays.

This Saturday, Baker will be on Rea's side. Lincoln always gives Baker a hard time for his decision to coach the Sharks.

"They ask why I'm not coaching over there and [why] am I wearing a black shirt," Baker said. "They told me on [Wednesday] that they're going to win the championship. We're ready for them.

"I mean there have been three or four articles [in which opponents predict] we're going to lose."

Rea put an end to Eastbluff's upset bid right away. Kevin Alcantara, Luis Perdomo, Ricardo Vargas and Bryant Reyes each scored goals in the first half, giving the Sharks a 4-0 lead at halftime.

Rea's strength is a balanced attack. Eastbluff's best chance to stop the Sharks was after it fell behind, 5-0, in the 31st minute on Vargas' second goal.

The Sharks held back, not wanting to be penalized for running up the score. Players from Eastbluff resorted to yelling while chasing down whoever dribbled the ball for Rea.

Eastbluff tried everything to slow down Rea. The school could've used its assistant coach, Reed Williams.

Coach Steve Solomon joked about inserting the UCLA-bound striker into the match. Williams helped Corona del Mar High win its first CIF Southern Section Division IV and CIF Southern California Regional Division II titles as a senior.

"You still probably couldn't bring us back by yourself," Solomon told Williams with a smile.

"You're probably right," Williams responded.

Williams has seen Rea dominate before while a coach at his alma mater, Lincoln, a couple of years ago. Williams said he helped guide Lincoln to the title game, only to see Rea easily win, 8-1.

Williams doesn't see anyone preventing Rea from claiming its fourth straight crown under Baker. This year's title run could be different from the previous ones.

"We're not just going to walk through this tournament. There have been years that we have," said Baker, whose team has outscored opponents, 9-1, in two games this tournament. "This year, there [are] some teams out there. I've watched some teams play and they're pretty good."

One of those teams is Lincoln.

"Lincoln is going to be extra fired up to play us," Baker said. "They're a lot taller than we are. We're a short team as you can see."

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Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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