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The scoring records within the boys’ soccer program at Desert Mirage High School were believed to be untouchable.
Alex Pimentel, whose legendary four-year run at Desert Mirage included a pair of CIF titles and CIF player of the year recognition in 2018, scored 45 goals as a senior and finished his high school career with 101. Pimentel's single-season goals are a record across the entire Coachella Valley.
Sean Lockhart scored 110 career goals at Palm Springs High in the 1990s.
But midway through his senior year at Desert Mirage, Rams striker Jose Calderon is in the process of challenging those numbers.
As of Tuesday, Calderon has 33 goals in 15 games for the unbeaten Rams (14-0-1). For his career, the four-year varsity player has 89 goals.
If Calderon can surpass Pimentel’s 45 goals in a season, he’ll also surpass his career goals mark and become, according to CIF-SS record books, the 11th boy in the history of the Southern Section to score more than 100 career goals.
Calderon entered the season, under head coach Peter Zamora, looking to break both valley records.
“I did think it was possible,” Calderon said. “It was a goal to accomplish it.”
Amerie Felix, a senior striker on the Desert Mirage girls’ team, is also having a historic season. She has 28 goals on the season, having already broken the school’s single-season scoring record among girls.
What makes Calderon’s season particularly special is that he’s chasing not just a school record but a valley mark that was previously believed to be unbreakable.
Pimentel, who now plays at Cal State Fullerton, worked with and mentored Calderon prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pimentel recalls that he was immediately impressed with Calderon's maturity and poise.
"Whatever drill we were doing," Pimentel wrote in a message to The Desert Sun, "he would never goof around. Instead, he was always ready and focused, waiting for his next rep. I knew he would soon grow to be an important player for Desert Mirage, especially under Coach Zamora, who has the experience and ability to understand how players like him can help the program. This is a reflection of his hard work, not only from this year but from past years as well."
Calderon said he set a goal for himself to score 60-65 goals as a senior. The number sounded absurd but he’s on a pace to come close. On his current pace, with 11 regular season games remaining, Calderon would reach 55 before the postseason even begins.
He’s scored in nearly every possible way this season, Zamora said. He’s scored about a dozen times from outside the box, from 12-20 yards away, on headers, free kicks, penalty kicks and, most of all, on breakaways.
“He can score from anywhere,” Zamora said, “but I’m not going to lie, we want to get this guy one-on-one with the goalie. That’s what we’re looking for and because he has the breakaway speed, if you put him one-on-one with the goalie he’s going to score more often than not.”
Like Pimentel, Calderon’s scoring ability has not only put him on a historical pace but it has also opened up the field for his teammates. Pimentel would often attract 2-3 defenders, which would leave holes in the defense and provide scoring opportunities for his teammates. The same is happening with Calderon.
For that reason, Calderon has 12 assists to go with his staggering number of goals.
Zamora said that Calderon, like Pimentel, is willing to work extra hours to perfect his game and to better understand the various intricacies of the game. That, Calderon said, has made a big difference this season.
“I’ve been practicing extra with (Coach) Zamora, and that has helped me a lot,” Calderon said. “That’s opened things up.”
It may be too early to start talking about the kind of playoff run this Desert Mirage team can make this year. But with Calderon, Zamora and a cast of players who are playing with confidence, the Rams may have a legitimate chance to win another CIF title.
That’s just another thing that hasn’t happened since Pimentel last played in Thermal.
“We have a really united team and they trust each other and they’ve played with each other for a while well,” Zamora said. “They trust Jose and they give him the ball when he needs it and they give him opportunities to be the leader.”
Pimentel said that records are made to be broken and that he hoped that Calderon's season sets the bar even higher at a school where it cannot get much higher.
"I'm proud of the whole team for having a great season so far," Pimentel said. "The continuity of hard work and humility throughout the season will lead the program to big things."
*Correction : A previous version of this story did not include Sean Lockhart's 110 goals as the most in the history of the Coachella Valley. We regret this error.
Andrew John covers sports for The Desert Sun and the USA Today Network. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and find him on Twitter at @Andrew_L_John.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Desert Mirage's Jose Calderon chasing iconic valley soccer scoring records