Jonathan Esparza and his Eisenhower teammates might make good basketball players.
They are, after all, adept at the art of rebounding.
The Cardinals scored off rebounds three times Thursday, with two of Esparza’s three goals coming in that fashion, as they rolled to their seventh straight win with a 7-0 victory over Oak Lawn in a South Suburban Red game in Blue Island.
“It’s what I always look to do,” Esparza said. “Anytime someone takes a shot, I always look for a loose ball and an opportunity to get a rebound and score.”
Gabriel Esparza – who’s not related to Jonathan – scored twice for Eisenhower (9-3, 5-1), which had no problem handling a squad from Oak Lawn (7-6, 3-4) that had two days earlier upset defending Red co-champion Reavis.
It was more impressive considering the Cardinals did it without leading scorer Francisco Avila, who missed the game due to a family emergency.
“I think what separates us from other teams is our depth,” Eisenhower coach Iran Rodriguez said. “It’s not just about one player. These kids are excited when they see we have a good record and a good ranking. We just have to keep them grounded and let them know teams are going to be gunning for us.”
Jonathan Esparza got the Cardinals going when he pounced on a rebound and found the net after Oak Lawn goalie Julian Reynoso (seven saves) made a stop on a Matthew Bahena shot.
He scored his second goal in a prettier fashion, taking a pass from Jonathan Reyes and burying a tough-angle shot from the right side of the net.
Alexis Gonzalez’ goal on a rebound after a Ramon Botello shot made it 3-0 Eisenhower before halftime.
“We always want to put pressure on and get a lot of guys in the box because you never know where there’s going to be a bounce or a loose ball and a chance to score off a rebound,” Rodriguez said.
Jonathan Esparza scored another second-effort goal early in the second half. Bahena scored on a penalty kick and Gabriel Esparza added two late goals to close the scoring.
Oak Lawn’s best chances to score came when Michal Szlafarski fired a long shot wide in the first half and Anthony Reynoso missed just wide on a header in the second half.
Juan Gallardo recorded the shutout.
“We’ve been trying harder [during the seven-game win streak],” Gabriel Esparza said. “We stopped playing around too much and we’re focused more now.”