The Mid-Columbia Conference’s latest addition is now on their way to the district championships.

On Saturday, the Hermiston boys soccer team, now ranked No. 2 in the conference standings, took down the Kennewick Lions 1-0 in a Bulldog-hosted District 8 playoff matchup, clinching a spot in the upcoming championships.

But it wasn’t the easiest climb to the top.

“Our first couple of games made me question if we were even there,” said coach Rich Harshberger. “We knew we could be competitive in the MCC, but that didn’t materialize right away. Some doubts started creeping in. But all credit to the boys. The results speak for themselves.”

Saturday marked the third meeting between the Bulldogs and the Lions, and the Bulldogs had won both times before. But with the score even at 0-0 going into the half, all bets were still off.

It wasn’t for a lack of trying — Hermiston had seven shots on goal, three of which came from Coleman Solano.

“We came out and stuck to the game plan,” Harshberger said. “We just had trouble putting the ball in the net. Last time (a 5-0 victory over the Lions), we scored a couple in pretty quick succession. We weren’t able to do that today. That got to their heads early on.”

With 22 minutes left in the second half, Emilio Leal passed the ball to midfielder Che Cadenas, who found an opening and drove it into the bottom left corner of Kennewick’s net.

“I wanted us to have at least one goal in the first half,” Cadenas said. “But we didn’t have anything. I started getting nervous. We would’ve come out with more confidence if we had scored in the first half. We needed a goal. I saw the left side open and I just kicked it in.”

Cadenas tried his luck at another goal a few minutes later, but sent the ball too far left. No matter — Kennewick never found the net, sending Hermiston on in the district playoff bracket.

“This feels really good,” Cadenas said. “It’s great to beat these Washington teams as a team from Oregon.”

Solano ended the day with five shots on goal. Goalkeeper Juan Navarrete posted four saves.

The Hermiston Bulldogs (7-7. 5-3 MCC) will host a district championship game on Tuesday at 5 p.m. against the Kamiakin Braves, who are coming in fresh off a 1-0 victory over North Central.

Hermiston has clashed with the Braves twice this season so far, winning the first and dropping the next.

“We just need to work on finishing the game,” Harshberger said.

“You can’t rely on a 1-0 lead. But the boys never hung their heads and they never gave up. That’s why we’re in the championship game.”

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