Jorge Carrillo started the season on the junior varsity team, but the more Hermiston coach Rich Harshberger watched the talented freshman play, he realized he needed the young man up on varsity.
The gamble paid off during the regular season, and again Tuesday night, as Carrillo scored a goal to help the Bulldogs beat Kamiakin 3-1 to win the 3A District 8 title at Kennison Field.
“This is a special group,” Harshberger said. “They have worked hard, and this is the result.”
The trophy is just the second in the program’s history, joining the 2011 Columbia River Conference title.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Hermiston goalie Juan Navarrete, who finished with three saves. “We are not done. I’m excited to see what happens next.”
The Bulldogs (8-7) will open 3A state play next Tuesday with a home game against the No. 5 team from District 3/4. It is a loser-out game.
Kamiakin’s Caden Egli opened the scoring in the 14th minute of the game, beating Hermiston defender Jerome Stasik and beating Navarrete.
“On that goal, there was a lack of communication,” Navarrete said. “After that, the team stepped up and I had a couple of key saves.”
Carrillo evened the score 5 minutes later taking a pass from Josh Galvez outside the 18 and heading the ball past Kamiakin keeper Jonathan Andrade and into the upper right corner of the net.
“It just happened,” Carrillo said of the goal. “Surprised me too. It gave me more confidence. We know how to play. This feels great.”
The Dawgs went into halftime with a 2-1 lead as Coleman Solano beat a diving Andrade, putting the ball in the lower right corner of the goal with 7:20 left in the half for what would be the game-winning goal.
“I saw the space and I saw the defense,” Solano said. “I was about at the 20. It wasn’t the best shot, but I hit it with a lot of pace.”
Hermiston outshot Kamiakin 8-2 in the first half. Navarrete had a couple of brilliant saves, leaping to knock a shot by Egli over the cross bar in the 13th minute, and taking another in the midsection to negate a developing play by the Braves.
With 4 minutes remaining on the clock in the second half, Emilio Leal gave Hermiston an insurance goal, never giving up on the ball.
“That killed their spirit,” Leal said. “That’s what we needed the last couple of minutes. We have been down before, but there is a drive that pushes us.”
Hermiston, which posted a 1-4 preseason record, finished the Mid-Columbia Conference 5-3, and has won both of its playoff games.
“At the beginning of the season, we set goals, and this was one of them,” Solano said. “I’m really proud of this team. We had a rough start, but I’m loving the way we are playing now.”