Smooth Moves: Arellano, Ortiz have provided key plays for Wildcats after coach moved them last year

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Feb. 28, 2008 - It was last season that SSHS soccer coach Andy Holt made two key moves that have been instrumental to the Wildcats' success the last two years.

Holt moved Mario Arellano from midfielder to goal keeper before the season, and then early into the 2007 schedule, Holt inserted newcomer Omar Ortiz into the starting line-up.

Both moves have worked out well.

Ortiz has probably come even farther than Arellano in becoming a starter. He didn't even play soccer until his junior year, but his insatiable work ethic helped him become a quick learner.

When Ortiz isn't playing soccer, he's helping his mother, Lorena Ortiz, who is a farm hand, or teaching his 11-year-old brother, Fernando, about the game.

"My mother works at a farm, feeding cows," Ortiz said. "On the weekends, I help to give her a day off. I feed calves for her so she can rest.

"I just love to work hard so I can get what I want."

That mindset is what makes Ortiz so special, Holt said.

"Omar is one of those jewels you find in the rough," the coach explained. "He decided his junior year to come out, and starting running those gassers and trimming down and became an athlete. Halfway through the year last year, he came in and never lost his spot. I knew he had potential, and once he got in, he never gave it up."

Ortiz said he never played soccer growing up, preferring basketball instead. But, he had Holt as a P.E. teacher as a freshman and started liking kick ball.

"I've never played soccer before in my life. I just started playing three years ago. All my friends said it was interesting," Ortiz explained. "I didn't have no skills or nothing. I just worked hard, and that's the reason I can play at a little bit higher level.

"Coach Holt has taught me everything, and I'm learning more from him every day."

Ortiz was an Honorable Mention All-District defender last year. This year as a midfielder, he has contributed six goals and three assists.

Arellano's journey to a starting position was a little more direct.

Arellano, a Second Team All-District keeper last year as a junior, was a midfielder before Holt decided that he was better suited for a keeper after seeing him play around in goal during practice.

The proof Holt was right was best exemplified last year during the Pleasant Grove game when Arellano made 11 saves, including stopping a penalty kick from Austin McCown, the district's Offensive Player of the Year. That kept a scoreless tie in tact, and allowed the Wildcats to win in a shootout.

The two points they earned for the shootout victory ended up being the difference between the Wildcats making the playoffs and finishing fourth in district.

"When you think back, we won that game, and if he doesn't stop that PK, we may not have gotten in the playoffs," Holt said. "He's been definitely instrumental in our success last year and this year.

"He has really developed as a goal keeper. He really played well for us last year, and has picked it up from there. He made some great plays for us and definitely won some games."

Arellano accepted the position change gladly.

"I like the change, and I like being the keeper," said Arellano. "You're a leader because you tell the defenders what's going on. They listen to you because you see everything and their backs are turned."

He was selected by the team members as a captain, an honor Holt said he rightly deserves. In fact, Arellano is being looked at by several colleges including East Texas Baptist and Lon Morris.

"Mario's a great kid to be around," the coach said. "He's one of those kids who love to have on your team.

"I told him that if he was going to play, keeper would be his position, and he was all for it. He was willing to do what it took to help the team and get on the field."

Arellano, the son of Rosa Arellano, said he usually lets his instincts take over when a shot comes his way in goal. He has registered six shutouts in 18 games this season.

"Sometimes when they're really close, you have to react," he explained. "Most of the time, you try to watch the ball and dive for it."

In the case of both Arellano and Ortiz, they dove right into their positions, and the Wildcats have prospered because of it.

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