The Kingsmen defend their title in NWOC soccer

by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Milwaukie senior Anton Grokhovskyi (left) and Putnam senior Jacob Wood battle for a loose ball in last weeks overtime game between the two cross-town rivals.It’s been another historic fall for Rex Putnam High School’s varsity boys soccer team.

With a 2-1 overtime win over third-ranked Wilsonville on Oct. 23, the Kingsmen clinched at least a tie for the 2012 Northwest Oregon Conference boys soccer crown.

Sporting a 5-1-0 record in league (8-5-0 overall), they were to conclude the NWOC season on Tuesday (Oct. 30), hosting league cellar-dweller St. Helens (2-10-0, 0-6-0). Wilsonville, Liberty and Sherwood all had 4-2 league records heading into their final league games and all three league teams were ranked in the top eight in the state.

A year ago the Kingsmen advanced to the Class 5A state quarterfinals, after going 7-0-0 in league and earning their school its very first league championship in boys soccer.

“It’s absolutely great!” said Putnam junior co-captain Elliot Bixby. “We made school history last year. To do it two years in a row, school history twice in a row, it’s a great feeling!”

“It’s a major accomplishment,” said senior co-captain Tim Bibian. “This is the first time in Rex Putnam history we’ve won back-to-back titles. I feel honored to be a part of it.”

“We’ve had three overtime games in league and we’ve won a lot of games in the final minutes,” said Putnam coach Mitch Wing. “We’ve been a big second-half team. These kids play with tremendous heart to the last minute of every game, and I’m very proud of them for what they’ve accomplished.”

Last week’s win at Wilsonville was hotly contested throughout, with the two teams playing to a scoreless tie in the first half of regulation.

Wilsonville broke the ice 10 minutes into the second half, when a Wildcat beat two Putnam defenders and blasted the ball off of Putnam goalie Ian Kay, and into the net. Kay nearly made the stop, but couldn’t hang on.

Putnam scored the equalizer with 10 minutes left in regulation. Putnam sophomore midfielder Oscar Gutierrez stopped an attempted clear, collected the ball and powered it past Wilsonville’s keeper from around 22 yards out.

“It was one of the best shots I’ve seen in years,” Wing said. “The goalie was anticipating a kick the other way. He didn’t have a chance to make a stop. He just froze.”

Hero honors went to Bixby and senior forward Jose Rivera.

With three minutes remaining in the second of two 10-minute overtime periods, Bixby brought the ball down the right-hand side of the field and was fouled. Bixby then sent the ball into the middle of the field, where Rivera collected it, and blasted it home from just six yards out.

The Kingsmen ran into a buzzsaw in cross-town rival Milwaukie last Thursday, and dropped a 1-0 nailbiter in overtime.

“I think [the game at] Wilsonville took a lot out of us, and I think it took a lot out of Wilsonville as well,” Wing said. “They had an overtime game on Thursday too. They had to go to overtime to beat Parkrose.”

The Kingsmen soccer boss said his charges started the Milwaukie game like a house afire, but faded quickly.

“We were getting the ball in position, but we weren’t scoring,” Wing said. “We were playing tired.”

Both teams had their opportunities to score.

Milwaukie finally found the net for the game’s only goal on a long, arching shot taken from 40 yards out by senior Angel Cacho two minutes into the overtime.

“I was like, ‘What’s he doing?’” Milwaukie coach Roberto Aguilar said. “But it went in, and we’ve scored goals like that before this season, so I can’t complain.”

“I wasn’t even sure if it was a shot,” Wing said. “Our goalie misread it.”

Putnam had a chance to tie it up when the Kingsmen were fouled in the box with three minutes left in the overtime. But adrenaline came into play, and the penalty kick was well off the mark.

Aguilar heaped praise on Milwaukie senior Robert Camacho, who drew the assignment of man-marking Putnam forward Jose Rivera.

And he commended Milwaukie senior goalkeeper Jose Penuelas, whom he said made several “tremendous saves.”

“The boys played hard,” Aguilar said. “I was very proud of them.”

The win was huge for the Mustangs, because it moved them up from 25th to 21st in the OSAA power rankings. In Class 5A, only 24 teams advance to postseason.

Milwaukie (5-5-2, 3-3-0) was to conclude the NWOC season Tuesday (Oct. 30).

Putnam was ranked 11th in the OSAA power rankings heading into this week’s final regular-season games.

The Class 5A play-in round runs Thursday through Saturday of this week, with winners advancing to the Nov. 6 first round of the state playoffs.

“I think we can make it to the [state] finals, if we play our hearts out every game, and are consistent,” Bibian said. “I feel we should go at least as far as last year, if not further.”

“I think we can make it to the quarterfinals again,” Bixby said. “It depends on how we play in the playoffs. If we play like we did against Milwaukie, we won’t go very far. But if we play like we did against Liberty, Sherwood and Wilsonville, then we will.”

Milwaukie took care of business in an Oct. 23 game with Parkrose, defeating the Broncos 3-1.

Trailing 1-0, the Mustangs scored three times in the final 18 minutes of the first half to pull out the win.

Senior Anton Grokhovskyi broke the ice, scoring from 30 yards out off a cross from Sergio Zurita-Luna 22 minutes into the game.

Senior Hayden Schuster put the game-winner in the net just two minutes later, scoring unassisted from 25 yards out. It was his first goal of the season.

Junior Edgar Pantoja-Alvarez put an insurance tally in the net, scoring from 18 yards out on a counter attack two minutes before halftime.

Senior Jose Panuelas played in-goal for the Mustangs, filling in for injured teammate Randall Sam. Panuelas made six saves, while Parkrose’s keeper made seven saves.

“The whole defense deserves credit for stepping up and getting the job done,” said Milwaukie coach Roberto Aguilar.

Aguilar singled out T.J. Fisher, Kevin Villanueva and Luke Yackley for their efforts on defense. He said Panuelas, who normally plays sweeper, was ‘solid’ in-goal.

He also praised Camacho for solid play in the midfield.

The La Salle Falcons last week locked up second place in Tri-Valley Conference boys soccer with a pair of victories, but neither win came easily.

The seventh-ranked Falcons escaped unheralded Gladstone with a narrow 1-0 victory in a boys soccer game played between the two rivals on Oct. 22; and they escaped Madras with a 3-2 win last Thursday.

The Falcons pounded Gladstone’s goal all night, but failed to score until Dakota Eisel found the net with just eight minutes to play. The assist came from Duran Herrera. Dylan Tran was in-goal.

“Gladstone always gives us a tough game, and it makes it hard to score on them,” La Salle assistant coach Derek Ray said. “We struggled finding the back of the net both times we played them this year. They have a great keeper and a stout defense....

“They actually got the first real chance of the game off a corner kick. Brezdan Dunnigan made a sliding kick-save to keep them out of the goal.”

Hero honors went to Brayan Rodriguez and David Lillie in Thursday’s game at Madras.

Rodriguez scored off a pass from Lillie with just two minutes remaining to gain the Falcons the 3-2 victory.

“Madras is always a tough place to play after that long drive, and we have normally struggled playing there,” Ray said. “This was probably our best game playing at Madras. We were able to move the ball and create quite a few chances. We just didn’t finish them all.”

Ray said the White Buffaloes kept in the game with a strong counter attack, making things interesting with two late goals.

Eisel headed in the Falcons’ first goal five minutes into the game — off a free kick from James Higgins — to stake La Salle to an early lead. Eisel scored again, off a pass from Stephan Malin with 12 minutes to play for the Falcons’ second tally.

The pair of wins put the Falcons (11-2, 7-2) second in the TVC — behind Molalla (1`1-2, 9-0) — heading into their Oct. 30 league final with Estacada (4-8, 1-7).

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