BOARDMAN — Entering the semifinal match on Tuesday afternoon, the Riverside Pirates had a few goals in mind. The first, to defend their home turf and remain undefeated. The second, to make it back to the state championship.
The last time the Pirates played for a state title was in 2011 when they defeated St. Mary’s 2-0 to cap of a perfect season. They are looking to repeat that fate Saturday after defeating De La Salle 4-0 to punch their ticket to the 3A/2A/1A championship game.
Riverside entered the postseason as the No. 1 and hosted each round of the 3A/2A/1A playoffs. Its latest victim, De La Salle, came to Boardman, and like those who came before fell prey to the Pirates aggressive style of play and ability to find the net in almost any circumstance.
It was Riverside’s ninth shutout of the season, and pushed its overall record to 16-0-1. There was never any doubt that the game wouldn’t end that way.
“This is our house,” assistant coach Jose Duenas said. “I told the boys, this is our house and we’re going to go undefeated and that we can’t let anybody come in and show us how they are going to play. We had to let them know how we play.”
The Pirates did just that. After taking control of the pace early, Riverside had plenty of looks at the goal and out-shot De La Salle four to one in the first 10 minutes of play.
The ball spent most of the time on the Knights’ half, forcing De La Salle to play physical defense in order to keep Riverside at bay.
The Knights (11-4-2 overall) couldn’t maintain that pressure for long and gave up their first goal 24 minutes into the game.
Riverside set up for a corner kick from the right side of the field where senior Quincy Castillo sent the ball flying across the goal. Fellow senior Misael Madrigal was there to punch it in for Riverside’s first point of the game.
The Pirates would tack on one more before halftime after seniors Kevin Madrigal and Jose Peralta paired up for a goal. It would be Peralta’s first of two on the night.
Once both teams returned from intermission, De La Salle came out with a newfound energy and began playing much more aggressively. That was no surprise to the Pirates, who were expecting a tough opponent.
“I was expecting them to be physically tough,” Peralta said. “They are big guys, but we were the better team today.”
Riverside went on to prove that throughout the second half. The Pirates took away the few chances the Knights had by beating them to fifty-fifty balls and taking away passing lanes. Allthewhile, the Pirates’ offense continued to attack.
Riverside went on to score two more goals in the second half. Peralta claimed the first after an assist from senior Alexis Mendoza and sophomore Ulyces Lopez scored the final goal on a break away.
Now as Riverside has three days to prepare for its third trip to the state championship game in school history. And standing in the way of a possible state title is the defending champion No. 3 Catlin Gabel Eagles, a team that the Pirates are very familiar with. The two teams met this year on the last day of the regular season and played to a 2-2 draw, and last year the Eagles ousted the Pirates from the playoffs with a 4-1 victory in the state semifinals.
“As of right now, the only team that really challenged us was Catlin-Gabel,” Duenas said. “That (game) showed us what we really need to focus on and we’re going to make sure we do that.”
The Pirates and Eagles will play for the 3A/2A/1A state title on Saturday at Liberty High School in Hillsboro. The kickoff time has yet to be determined.
Contact Alexis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4542. Follow her on Twitter @almansanarez.