Julio Azcaray Blackfoot's stellar defensive star

Julio Azcaray with his parents on senior night in Blackfoot.

BLACKFOOT – When you watch Julio Azcaray play soccer for the Blackfoot Broncos boys’ team, you can’t help but notice the smile on his face. He plays with sheer abandon and joy at being on the field with his teammates.

Julio is a defensive specialist who has many skills on the field and you can always tell by the way he plays that he has his teammates’ backs during the game.

He doesn’t play mean or with a tyrannical effect, but you can rest assured that if one of his teammates gets knocked to the turf, Julio will make sure you didn’t need to do that.

He loves the game, enjoys playing it, and loves his teammates. He has a smile that can be seen from one end of the field to the other, that is the love for the game that he has.

Julio also has skills that on most other teams would have him playing a more offensive position than he does, but his team needs him on defense and this Broncos team is built around Julio and his three defensive mates on the back line.

The squad of Julio Azcaray, Bryce Cornell, Wyatt Gerrie, Logan Hanson and goal keeper Gavin Cornell are a formidable group that has produced six shutouts and five other games that they only allowed one goal against the Broncos. That means in 11 of their 14 games, including Monday’s contest in the first round of the District 6, 4A tournament, teams have been held to one or less goals. That is an impressive statistic for a team that is currently 13-1 on the year.

Any one of them could probably play offense for another team, but they are after something more. They want a state championship for Blackfoot before they graduate and this year’s squad has everything you might need to win that special blue trophy symbolic of a state title.

“We all love this game so much that we will play anywhere that coach puts us and he does move us around,” Azcaray said. “Each of us on this team has a role and if we do what we need to, we have a chance to win it all. That is all that you can ask for, a chance to win.”

Monday’s game against Shelley was an example of how the team and their coach Liam Pope feel about this year’s team. They are good and they know it, but like all teams, they sometimes need to be reminded of what is at stake with each game from here on out.

With the Broncos leading 2-0 at intermission, the Broncos were losing the wind advantage for the second half and were reminded in no uncertain terms that they hadn’t accomplished anything at all this year if they didn’t finish the job at hand.

He informed the team that if they didn’t finish the job at hand, the game against Shelley, nothing they had done during the whole year would mean anything. The game with Shelley was just the start of a new journey, where all the teams had the same 0-0 record and you really put yourself behind the eight ball if you didn’t take the game more seriously in the second half.

The team responded and held the Russets at bay for another 45 minutes of play, without the Russets even getting a good look at the goal.

The Broncos were spurred on to another goal, coming on a penalty kick that led the team to an eventual 3-0 win and a date with Hillcrest today in the tournament finals with a state berth on the line. It made it all come to fruition for the Broncos, a spot in the finals where they felt they belonged anyway, but the job isn’t completed yet. A loss to Hillcrest would put the Broncos in jeopardy of not making the state tournament, so winning is on the minds of all of the Broncos.

“We know we have a great opportunity and we want that win,” Julio said. “We know what we need to do and we are committed to get the job done.”

Not everything in Azcaray’s life has been as easy as he makes things seem. He is happy and seems pretty satisfied with things as they are today, but it hasn’t always been this way.

When Julio was a baby, his parents made the decision to move to the United States from Mexico in order to make a better life for themselves. In the interest of safety for their young child, they made the decision to leave him in the hands of his grandparents until such time that they had gotten established and could send for him.

That process took about six months to get accomplished and the whole family met in Las Vegas.

The grandparents showed up with Julio and his parents met them at the airport in Las Vegas and they all then made their way back to Idaho to begin their new life.

“It was a very testing time and something that I will always remember, but we are all in a better place now,” Julio said. “The move has given us all many more opportunities.”

As for the future, Julio would like to become a mechanic and work on trucks. He sees himself making his way toward California and would like to make his home there when he is ready.

“I like working on trucks and I see myself as doing that for the rest of my life,” Julio said. “ I want to make sure that I am fully trained and can get set up in California to pursue the rest of my dreams.”

For now, Julio and the rest of the Broncos have a bigger challenge in front of them. They want a district championship to propel them on to the state championships and then take care of business there.

It won’t be easy, there will be some bumps along the road, but they have made their way to this point and plan on continuing down the road that has gotten them to this point.

The Broncos are ranked in the second position in the Idaho Power Rankings. They are only behind Canyon Ridge, who has been competing in the Great Basin 7 Conference and are in a battle of their own in the District 4 tournament.

The high scoring River Hawks only earned the second seed in their own district, but are in the finals against Jerome on Thursday. If they win, they will be on one side of the state bracket and if the Broncos win, they will be on the other side and the two will meet only if both make the finals with the title on the line. That is the perfect scenario for all the fans of soccer in Idaho.