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Husky boys advance to state

Aaron Caballero scores North Marions game-winning goal against Ridgeview


by: PHIL HAWKINS - North Marion sophomore Aaron Caballero (center) celebrates with teammates after scoring the teams lone goal in a 1-0 victory over the Ridgeview Ravens in the play-in round of the state playoffs. The victory gives the Huskies a first-round match against the No. 9 Sisters Outlaws that was scheduled for Tuesday.After a hard-fought 1-0 play-in victory against the Ridgeview Ravens Saturday at North Marion High School, the Husky boys soccer team is headed to the first round of the playoffs for a second consecutive year.

The Huskies entered the play-in round after a 4-1 victory over Gladstone Oct. 29 to finish the regular season as one of the top-seeded teams. North Marion (9-2-4, 5-2-3 Tri-Valley) was eighth in the final OSAA rankings, finishing third in the Tri-Valley Conference this year behind league foes La Salle and Molalla. The team’s final ranking gave the Huskies the second seed in the play-in round and an advantageous home match against the No. 26-ranked Ridgeview Ravens (6-5-4, 4-3-3 Special District 1).

The Huskies have built an impressive resume over the course of the 2013 season. North Marion’s only losses of the season have come in a pair of 1-0 league games against the No. 4 La Salle Falcons (10-3-1, 8-1-1).

But with both the Huskies and Ravens fighting for their season Saturday, North Marion played a much tougher opponent than the final ranking indicated coming into the game.

“I’d say they were definitely a good example of how when you go into playoffs, ranking doesn’t mean anything,” said North Marion goalkeeper Shane Whitehead. “They were ranked 26th, and we were ranked eighth, and that’s a pretty big gap. But if you look at the score, it doesn’t show it.”

The two teams played fairly evenly in the first half, with neither team scoring. But North Marion sophomore Aaron Caballero got an open shot on goal three minutes into the second half and scored from five yards out on what turned out to be the game-winning goal.

“It was one mistake on each side and whoever made the mistake would lose the game,” said Husky coach Rafael Pelaez, who praised Ridgeview’s team after the game. “They play mechanical. They play very well and have good coordination.”

Saturday’s victory was the third shutout in five games for Huskies, who have given up more than one goal just once in the past month.

“You can’t just focus on defense and expect to win,” said Whitehead, “but we definitely have a really strong defense, and that’s something I’m really proud of.”

The victory puts North Marion into the first round at the No. 9 Sisters Outlaws (13-1-1, 10-0 Sky-Em). Sisters enters the game, which was scheduled for Tuesday, as one of the toughest teams on paper after leading the 4A classification with 95 goals scored.

“Looking at their record and how many goals they’ve scored, we definitely need to be strong in defense,” said Whitehead. “We always try to score right in the beginning, and in the game against Sisters, I think that would be even bigger than usual, because I don’t think they’re used to getting scored on.”

Pelaez isn’t too concerned about Sisters’ potent offense and expects the game to be close if North Marion can continue to play the style of soccer that has led to nine wins this season.

“I don’t know how easy or hard their league is. I’m not going to go by their scores,” he said. “It’s about doing our job. If we play well, the way we’ve been doing so far, I think we can do it.”

A victory for the Huskies over Sisters would lead to a quarterfinal match Saturday against either Tillamook or No. 2 McLoughlin.

For a full tournament bracket, go to www.osaa.org/activities/bsc/brackets.