Immediately above, Aiden Masterson scrambles to recover a deflected shot Sept. 27.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain photos

Surrounded by a trio of Ruidoso players who stood a head taller on Sept. 27, Aiden Masterson launched himself into the air to knock down a shot on goal only to see it spring loose, and he had to scramble after it.

A second shot followed and rebounded off his arm. There was another quick shot and a deflection, and fast as a mongoose after a cobra, Masterson lashed out with both hands and gathered in the ball.

Not catching the ball on the initial shot was a mistake an eighth-grade goalkeeper might make, and Masterson qualifies because he should be playing on JV, but that’s not the Socorro Warriors’ soccer reality right now.

Javier Leon, left, checks up the ball in preparation for a shot.

Masterson and his fellow eighth graders don’t realize it yet, but they are the cornerstones of Socorro’s soccer future.

The only thing that will help Socorro is time and experience.

The Warriors are like the kid who keeps getting his lunch money taken away by bullies — sooner or later, that bully will walk away with a bloody nose, but he’s buying a candy bar as a snack for now.

It’s hard for a young person to be told things take time and to be patient, and coach Daniel Sanchez is working at building a love for the game.

“We’ve been keeping it fun,” Sanchez said. “I’ll get on their cases when I must like bad behavior or bad attitudes, but I try to make it fun.”

Things are less fun when you lose 8-0 and that’s why Sanchez is less worried about wins than he is about attitude.

Most importantly, Sanchez keeps seeing improvement, and Masterson’s play wasn’t lost on him.

“It’s his first year as a goalkeeper, and he’s taken on the role of doing it. I appreciate him being brave, showing discipline, and being able to stay in the box and take the shots because he’s taking many shots,” Sanchez said.

Even though he was a little banged up and couldn’t play in the field, Masterson wanted to help if he could and played in the goal the entire match.

“I just want to help our team get better,” Masterson said. “It can get a little crazy out there, and my defenders worked hard to help me out.”