The Kingsmen advance to the round of 16

Sporting one of the younger teams in the Northwest Oregon Conference, the Rex Putnam Kingsmen have come a long way in high school boys soccer this fall.

They got off to a slow start, losing five of their first six games in preseason.

They’ve been tough in the Northwest Oregon Conference, going 4-2-1, with their only losses in games with third-ranked Wilsonville and conference runner-up Liberty.

“Elliot [Bixby] and Treavor [Vavrosky] are the only seniors on the team,” said Putnam coach Mitch Wing. “We’re a young team and we’ve got a bright future. Our goal this year is to go as long as we can in the playoffs. The more experience the better off we’ll be next year.”

Wing said the biggest challenge this year has been learning to play together, and taking advantage of team speed, moving the ball up the wings.

“We’ve got great team speed and great scorers,” Wing said. “We just haven’t taken that many shots, because we haven’t been able to get the ball to our scorers that often. But they’re improving. And once we get better at pushing the ball up the wings, watch out! Because we’re going to score a lot of goals.”

Last week’s league final was reflective of the season. In the first half, the Kingsmen struggled to get the ball to their scorers; in the second half, they moved the ball up the wings and scored three goals in a 3-1 victory over St. Helens.

With the team trailing 1-0, Bixby tied things up at 1-1 in the 55th minute, blasting the ball home from 18 yards out off a back-pass from Oscar Gutierrez, who had brought the ball up the right wing.

Six minutes later, Victor Loza put the game-winner in the net, off a cross from Bixby.

Gutierrez and Bixby teamed up again at the 72nd minute, repeating what they had done earlier.

Putnam goalie Jesse Martinez made five saves in the first half and “he didn’t touch the ball in the second half,” Wing said.

The Kingsmen were impressive in last Saturday’s state play-in game, a 4-0 win over 19th-ranked Hermiston.

Putnam had an unlikely hero against Hermiston in Kevin Zamora, the only freshman on Putnam’s varsity. Putnam had been dominating the play but the Kingsmen had been unable to score, when Wing put the rookie up front with 16 minutes remaining in the first half.

“In just 30 seconds, Kevin scored, and 10 minutes after that, he scored again,” said Wing.

The two tallies were Zamora’s first varsity goals. The first came off a pass from Matt Ciobanasiu. Zamora took the pass, turned, and fired the ball past the keeper from around 15 yards out.

The second goal was scored from 10 yards out, also off a pass from Ciobanasiu.

Thirteen minutes into the second half, River Lee scored on a follow-up shot following a free kick by Elliot Bixby, putting Putnam up 3-0, and the game was secure.

Matt Ciobanasiu scored off a pass from his brother Tommy Ciobanasiu five minutes later to round out the scoring.

Wing had his side with 14 shots, eight of them on frame. He said that Jesse Martinez recorded his third shutout of the season, while making four saves.

Ranked 14th in the OSAA RPI rankings, the Kingsmen were to meet eighth-ranked South Albany in a Tuesday (Nov. 5) first-round state playoff game at South Albany. The winner of that game will likely face top-ranked and three-time defending state champion Woodburn (11-1-2) in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

“It’s very exciting!” said Wing. “If we beat South Albany, we get to play Woodburn. They’ve only lost one game in four years and that was to a 6A program. To get to the state championship you have to go through Woodburn and we’d love to get that opportunity.”

Wing noted that the NWOC has fared well in postseason, advancing five of its eight teams to Tuesday’s 16-team first round.

In other play-in games last weekend, Liberty defeated 12th-ranked Bend 2-1, Sherwood defeated 10th-ranked Franklin 2-1 and Parkrose defeated 13th-ranked Madison 1-0.

League champion Wilsonville, which drew a bye from the play-in round, also advanced to Tuesday.

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