HILLSBORO — It was the rematch waiting to happen. The No. 1 Riverside Pirates pitted against the No. 2 Catlin Gabel Eagles. Both teams went undefeated. Both boasted big victories and had nine shutouts a piece. Both teams deserved to play in the 3A/2A/1A state championship match.
On Saturday, the two schools met at Liberty High School in Hillsboro.
Recently, the Pirates and Eagles ended an early meeting with a 2-2 draw but this time around, the outcome was very different.
“I’m shocked, about the score — that’s the only thing I’m shocked about is the score,” assistant coach Jose Duenas said. “We knew we had a really good team — we had the right pieces for the right team and everything worked out.”
The 4-1 victory didn’t come without some heart-stopping moments. To start, the Eagles (12-1-5 overall) and the Pirates (17-0-1) were trading attacks which put both goalies to work early.
Riverside’s freshman keeper Gerardo Lopez made two key back-to-back stops that easily could have given Catlin Gabel the lead.
On offense, the Pirates fired back and senior Jose Peralta showed off his footwork by weaving in and out of defenders and keeping the ball in the Eagles’ back third.
It was a busy 15-plus minutes of play until Riverside was finally able to land a shot. The Pirates had some good looks at the goal but they either sailed wide or flew too high. But the shot from Armando Ramirez-Cardenas in the 17th minutes found the net to give Riverside a 1-0 lead. Senior Kevin Madrigal had the assist.
The score opened the game up for the Pirates and sent a message to the Eagles, who came firing back after the first goal of the night.
“We needed that (goal),” senior Jose Peralta said. “They were attacking well, but our goal set them back. ... We were expecting them to come in hard, and knew they wanted to defend their title.”
The Eagles first half efforts were left there, and had little chance of coming back after the break.
Riverside opened the second half with goals on back-to-back possessions to push its lead to 3-0.
The first came off the foot of sophomore Ulyces Lopez after he beat three Catlin Gabel defenders. Lopez ended up a few feet away from the goal line before he turned and fired to the inside post.
“The keep was expecting it to go far post,” Lopez said, “and I trusted my gut and went near post, and it went in.”
Peralta would send another one in on the ensuing attack after he beat the keeper and was charging toward an open goal.
No lead is comfortable against a tough team like Catlin Gabel but after a penalty in the box put senior Misael Madrigal one-on-one with the Eagles’ goalie, the Pirates were just waiting for the clock to wind down.
“I was out (on the sidelines) and I saw 10 minutes left on the clock and we were up 4-0,” Lopez said, “and I started yelling, ‘we won, we won we won this.’”
The shut out was avoided when senior Ben Karp finally put Catlin Gabel on the board in the final minutes of play, but it didn’t do much for the defending champions.
Riverside will be bringing its second title back to Boardman, and the first under head coach Francisco Velazquez.
“It’s my dream,” he said. “I had the state championship when I was the assistant coach and now I have my state championship as the head coach.”
Contact Alexis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4542. Follow her on Twitter @almansanarez.