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On top of the world

Westview beats Grant 1-0 to win the first state soccer title in the school's 18-year history
by: Miles Vance THEY ARE NO. 1 – Westview senior forward Jaime Velasco raises the championship trophy while his teammates raise him after the Wildcats beat Grant 1-0 in Saturday’s Class 6A state championship at Hillsboro Stadium.

HILLSBORO - 'One' was Westview's magic number on Saturday.

The Wildcat boys soccer team managed just one goal in Saturday's Class 6A state championship game against Grant at Hillsboro Stadium, but that one goal led to one win, and that 1-0 win left the Wildcats as the No. 1 team in the state.

Further, that 1-0 win over the Generals gave the Westview boys soccer program the first state championship victory in its long and successful history.

'It's unbelievable,' said Westview senior forward Jaime Velasco, who scored the game's lone goal on a headers off a corner kick with 2 minutes, 29 seconds remaining in the second half. 'We just worked together, stayed together the whole time, and played like a family. That's what did it for us.'

'I don't even feel this is real. This has been a dream since freshman year,' said senior midfielder Jesse DeLeon. 'I've been wanting this. Westview has been wanting this. All our fans are here. I just can't believe it.'

'It feels great,' added senior midfielder Danny Segovia. 'Last year, we got to the semifinals, and the year before that the quarterfinals. This time we had to take it all.'

The win capped Westview's season record at 16-2-1 after finishing second in the Metro League, while Special District 1 champion Grant ended its year at 14-3-2.

As exciting as the final result was, there were a ton of tense moments along the way as the Generals and Wildcats played 77:31 of back-and-forth scoreless soccer.

Westview had the first noteworthy scoring chance on Saturday when DeLeon sent a 30-yard free kick into the Grant penalty box from the right side 13 minutes into the game. Velasco worked his between a handful of General defenders and flicked a header past keeper Jacob Palmer into the goal, but saw that early score waived off by an offside call.

Grant - which beat Westview 3-1 in the 2008 state championship - took its first shot at scoring with 14:37 to go before halftime when Julian Hanlon-Austin sent a long free kick into the Wildcat box and teammate Hogan Marhoefer ran onto it and headed it just high over the Westview goal.

Velasco had another dangerous scoring chance with 9:45 left in the half when he made a run down the left seam and broke between two defenders before missing wide left on a full-speed one-on-one chance against Palmer.

The Generals came close again with 5:54 left in the half when Marhoefer's shot from close in on the left side was deflected away by Wildcat keeper Yoji Ishizuka, and Grant's Curtis Jewell missed a follow-up header to send the game to halftime at 0-0.

'I usually have one guy following me all the time, but today I had two guys following me so it was just harder for me to get the ball and hold it for my team to start something,' Velasco said. 'It was hard for the first half, but the second half, we adjusted. I felt like it was going to come sooner or later.'

'When we went in to the locker room, we knew we couldn't put our heads down. We had to keep fighting,' DeLeon said.

The Wildcats made those adjustments, kept fighting and kept the pressure on Grant in the final 40 minutes, and they did so in both halves of the field. While Westview kept working and waiting for its chance to score, the Wildcats also did a splendid job of keeping Grant's offense in check, allowing just one shot on goal for the game, a long chance by Arnold Austin handled easily by Ishizuka with 14 minutes remaining.

With its defense and midfield dominating, Westview kept the pressure on in Grant's back half of the field, nearly breaking through with 22 minutes left when Velasco took a long bouncing pass in the Generals' box, headed it past a defender, then headed it again toward the left-center of the goal where Palmer made a leaping save.

DeLeon had a good shot at the game-winner too, missing just right from the top of the Grant box after taking a Velasco pass out of the lower left corner with 5:30 left to play.

But the Wildcats made sure this game didn't go to overtime. Now inside the final three minutes, Westview won a corner kick on the left side and called on senior midfielder Jordan VanBaest to take it. VanBaest sent an arcing ball into a crowd of players in front of the Grant goal and Velasco rose up in front of two General defenders and headed it home to the center-right portion of the goal.

'Jordan VanBaest walked by and I said 'Look for me. Look for me,'' Velasco said. 'And I got up in the air and I hit it. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was going in. It was unbelievable.'

'With just over two minutes left on the clock, we had to get that goal. We had to get that,' Segovia said. 'That was our mindset, to score before we go to OT.'

'We got that cross and Jaime just put it in,' added junior midfielder Gustavo Gonzalez. 'It was great, amazing. I can't say anything more.'

From there, Westview played out the final minutes, then kicked off a wild celebration of their school's first-ever boys state soccer title in the center of the field.

'It's really nice, especially for the seniors,' said senior midfielder Gregg Anderson. 'I can't even describe it.'

'I didn't want it to go into overtime so I was hoping the goal came sooner than later,' Velasco added. 'It was even better than that McMinnville goal (in the semifinal). It felt even better, meant a lot more.'

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