In the battle for the district title, a last-minute goal kept Riverside in the running.
The No. 5-ranked Pirates hosted the No. 14 Taft Tigers in the first round of the 3A/2A/1A district playoffs on Tuesday, and while the two teams held each other in check for the bulk of the game, Riverside came back at the end for the win.
While Riverside proved stronger in the end, Taft came out of the gate swinging.
Eight minutes into the first half, Tigers forward Edson Fuentes fired a kick just out of Pirates keeper Jose Torres’ reach, putting Taft ahead. Fuentes returned not two minutes later to extend the lead by scoring off an assist from midfielder William Calderon.
The Pirates responded with a goal after midfielder Ulyses Lopez drove the ball from center field and kicked it into the net at the 17-minute mark. The first half ended with the Tigers up 2-1.
The Pirates came into the second ready for a comeback. Midfielder Johan Pena missed three shots before his team tied it up — Francisco Chavez scored off a pass from Jose Napoles at the 30 minute mark.
As the clock wound down and the sun set over Riverside’s field, it looked like the game would move into overtime. But the Pirates continued to flaunt their swift footwork as Chavez wove in and out of Taft’s defense, found an opening, and passed straight to center-mid Gerardo Lopez, who kicked it in for a goal with 1:27 left in the game.
The goal secured the win for the Pirates, who will now advance into the next playoff round when they travel 505 miles to Brookings Harbor for Saturday’s quarterfinals match. Riverside has claimed the district title four years straight and is the defending Class 3A state champion.
“It was a relief,” Lopez said of his final goal. “It was a pretty even match. Taft played with their hearts, but we played great and came out strong with our new squad.”
Riverside lost a good portion of its championship lineup to graduation. Head coach Francisco Velazquez said this season has been one of rebuilding in hopes of a third overall state title (they also won in 2011).
“Tonight was tough and exciting,” Velazquez said. “It was a great game. They’re not doing too bad this year — and we still have district championships ahead of us.”
MADRAS 3, MAC-HI 1 — The Pioneers will head home for the season after falling to Madras in the first round of the 4A district playoffs.
“We had a lot of scoring opportunities in the first half, but didn’t take advantage of them,” said Mac-Hi coach Jose Garcia. “In the second half, I sent everybody out to attack. I had no choice.”
Forward Kael Castuita scored for the Pioneers in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to overcome their No. 9-ranked opponents.
“To be honest, I thought it was a great game overall,” Garcia said. “(Madras) is ranked high and doing really well in the league. They got the breakaway in the second half.”
OREGON EPISCOPAL 6, UMATILLA 1 — Umatilla’s season ended after a road loss to Portland’s Oregon Episcopal in the first round of the 3A/2A/1A state playoffs.
Forward Jefri Coria scored for the Vikings in the first half.
“I’m proud of them. They played as hard as they could,” said coach Pedro Ortiz. “A lot of our players didn’t have playoff experience, so it was daunting. Our first goal was to qualify, and we did that.”