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Apollos come oh so close

The Apollos push Lincoln to the limit before falling 7-6
by: Miles Vance, LIVING ON THE EDGE — Sunset midfielder Matt Burton balances the ball on the end of his stick as he races upfield during the Apollos’ 7-6 loss to Lincoln in the OHSLA state championship game at Wilsonville High School on Saturday.

WILSONVILLE - Saturday's OHSLA boys state championship game just about had it all.

A classic battle between the state's top two boys programs, Sunset and Lincoln, at Wilsonville High School.

A third straight title match-up between these two titans of Oregon high school lacrosse.

And a David-vs.-Goliath story angle that very nearly saw Sunset notch an upset of biblical proportions.

In the end, it was Columbia Conference champion Lincoln that held the upper hand, coming from behind with a dynamite third quarter that fueled its 7-6 title victory over the Apollos. The win capped Lincoln's third straight state championship season with a 21-3 record, while Sunset - the third-place finisher from the Metro League - finished second at state for the third straight season and ended its 2012 campaign at 17-8.

Despite the loss, the Apollos - led by head coach Jeff Dill and assistants Adam Jack, Martin Wright and Jimmy Yoo - left filled with pride and satisfied with their efforts.

'It's killer losing to them every year, but I'm proud of how it turned out,' said Sunset senior midfielder Cole Abdie, who scored two of his team's six goals in the title contest. 'I just wish I had one more year.'

'It didn't work out for us in the end, but everyone put in a good effort,' said Sunset senior goalie Collin Peters. 'There were a lot of people expecting that we weren't going to do anything in this game so we had nothing to lose, and we came out and played the game we needed to play.'

'They were obviously the favorite and everyone thought they were going to blow us out,' added Sunset senior midfielder Tony Navoa, who scored once in his team's Saturday loss. 'People were saying the Lakeridge-Lincoln game should have been the championship, but we came out and gave 'em all we had and we almost had 'em.'

Key to Sunset's upset hopes was the team's fast start Saturday night. Abdie won the game's opening face-off, raced down the center of the field and scored past Cardinal goalie Jack Edwards just seven seconds into the contest.

With Lincoln knocked back on its heels, the Apollos struck again just 1:49 later, this time with Navoa taking a pass from Pat Campbell and connecting from just 5 yards out on the right side to give his team an early 2-0 lead.

'I definitely knew that we had to start fast,' Abdie said. 'We went out good. That definitely helped.'

'We just came out firing as much as we could,' Navoa added. 'Cole got that first face-off and we got an immediate goal and kind of got our momentum going.'

The Apollos held that lead too, thanks to a number of outstanding saves by Peters and solid defense from Sunset's Jake Rhodehamel, Trever Shiffler and Luke Vroman.

But Lincoln was in no mood to let its chance at a third straight state crown slip away without a fight.

The Cardinals got their first score with 6:36 to go in the first quarter on a great individual effort from senior midfielder Jake Marcy, then scored again just 2:03 later. On that second goal, Cardinal senior attacker Michael Marcott connected from close in on the right side to send the game into the second quarter at 2-2.

Lincoln then took its first lead at 3-2 with 8:25 to go in the second quarter when senior midfielder Andrew Dalke came up from behind the Sunset goal and scored at close range.

This time, however, it was the Apollos' turn to show some fortitude. Sunset closed out the half with three unanswered goals in the remaining minutes of the second quarter and rolled into the break with a 5-3 lead. First, junior midfielder Colin Skaggs took a pass from Matt Burton and scored from 10 yards out on the right side to knot the score at 3-3 with 7:58 to go before halftime.

Next, Burton made a steal near midfield, passed ahead to Jeff Bieber and Bieber dumped it off in traffic to senior attacker Eric Webber for a score from point-blank range with 6:57 to go in the quarter and a 4-3 Sunset lead. And finally, Campbell made a breakaway run down the field, then fed the ball to Webber who connected in a crowd with just 1:03 to go in the half for that 5-3 lead at the break.

'They definitely weren't expecting that,' Peters said. 'I won't say they came in way too overconfident, but they definitely didn't think it would be this close of a game.'

'They didn't expect it because everybody talks about us not being as good,' Abdie said. 'We're the speed bump or whatever, but we went out good.'

Unfortunately for Sunset, however, Lincoln 'went out good' in the third period. Just as the Cardinals had taken control in the third quarter of the state title contest in 2011, they did it again on Saturday night, scoring four unanswered goals in that third quarter to move back in front at 7-5.

Lincoln senior attacker Grant Clifford kicked off that stretch when he came up from behind the Sunset goal and scored from short range just 1:47 into the second half. Clifford connected again just 10 seconds later, this time taking a pass from Jack Gros after the face-off and scoring on a quick attack to tie the game at 5-5.

The Cardinals weren't done either. Next, senior midfielder Jake Marcy took a pass from Marcott and connected from 8 yards out on the left side to give his team a 6-5 edge with 4:48 remaining in the third quarter. Lincoln then added its fourth straight goal with 2:33 to go in the frame when senior midfielder Chris Nye broke up the left seam and cashed in from 5 yards out of goal to provide his team's largest lead at 7-5.

To Sunset's great credit, though, the Apollos didn't fold. A year ago, Sunset melted down when Lincoln stepped up in the third, but on Saturday, the Cardinals' success just seemed to stiffen the Apollos' resolve. After a brief delay as players waited for three streakers to clear the field three minutes into the fourth quarter, it was Abdie who figuratively streaked up the left side of the field and scored again to cut Lincoln's lead to 7-6 with 6:48 left in the game.

The Cardinals answered by playing possession following Abdie's goal, holding on to the ball and working it around Sunset's end of the field for most of the next six minutes and taking their one-goal lead into the final minute.

But the Apollos finally regained possession of the ball in the final minute and made everyone in the stadium hold their breath as they pushed for the equalizing goal. Navoa had the first of his team's last-gasp chances, missing with 36 seconds to go, and Bieber the last, attacking from the right side in a crowd only to see his shot knocked away with 22 seconds remaining. Lincoln senior Spencer Rotenburg ended up with the ball following Bieber's shot, raced up the right side of the field and flung the ball high into the air at the end of the game.

'I had a pretty good look there at the end. I wish I could re-do that,' Navoa said. 'But their star players controlled the game, possessed the ball at the end. We just couldn't close it out.'

'I knew that the beginning of the third was going to be huge because that's when they put it on us last year,' Abdie said. 'Unfortunately, it happened again, but we didn't bail out this year. We came back. We made it close.'

To see a complete photo gallery from this game, please go to milesvance.exposuremanager.com.