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Kingsmen prove themselves among the best


But they meet their match in top-ranked Woodburn

The youthful Rex Putnam Kingsmen on Nov. 5 proved themselves without question one of the state’s top Class 5A high school boys soccer teams, as they dispatched with eighth-ranked South Albany 2-1 in a Class 5A boys soccer first-round state playoff game at South Albany.

“It was one of our best games of the season,” said Putnam coach Mitch Wing. “We had lots of opportunities. We had at least 18 shots on-frame. We were aggressive. Their goalkeeper kept punching them away, but we’d come right back and fire on-frame again. We were missing by inches, not feet. It was good.”

Wing said that the Rebels had nine or ten shots on-frame, but only a couple that were dangerous. Still, the game went down to the wire.

After a scoreless first half for both teams, junior Alexis Sanchez found the net for Putnam just eight minutes after the intermission, taking a cross from Oscar Gutierrez and pounding the ball home from 14 yards out for a 1-0 Kingsmen lead.

“The keeper dove, but he had no chance,” Wing said.

Fourteen minutes later, a South Albany player lobbed a shot over the head of Putnam keeper Jesse Martinez, tying things up at 1-1.

The Kingsmen’s game-winner was a “team goal,” scored by Alexis’ cousin, Edgar Sanchez, with eight minutes left in regulation. It was his first goal of the year.

River Lee put the ball in play with a long throw-in, Matt Ciobanasiu headed it across the goal mouth to just inside the far post, where Edgar slammed it into the net from point-blank range.

But the Rebels didn’t roll over. With two minutes remaining, a South Albany player fired a rocket from 18 yards out.

“Jesse was on the other side of the goal and when the South Albany guy took the shot, he shot to what looked like an open net,” said Wing. “The kid thought it was a goal. He was jumping up-and-down celebrating. But Jesse flew across the net and somehow got to it, and punched it away. It was a game-saver. It kept them from tying the game and sending it into overtime, with them having momentum....

“Our goals were important, of course, but that save was huge! Jesse saved the day.”

The win advanced the Kingsmen to their third quarterfinal in the past six seasons. They lost to McNary in the quarterfinals in 2008 and to Wilson in the quarterfinals in 2011.

Unfortunately they also had their hands full in this year’s quarterfinals, losing to top-ranked and three-time defending state champion Woodburn 5-1, in a Saturday evening game in Woodburn.

“It was a better game than the score would indicate,” Wing said. “It was 1-1 at halftime. I think they just wore us out. They were very, very good, and fast. We played aggressive in the first half, but we chased them the whole game, and you can’t do that for 80 minutes and hope to come out on top.”

Wing praised Martinez: “My keeper did a man’s job. They had 45 to 50 shot on-frame. Jesse blocked and blocked and blocked and poked them away. He did an unbelievable job. The score would have been a lot worse without Jesse.”

Although his Kingsmen got off a dozen shots, Wing said that most of the game was played at Putnam’s end of the field.

“They are the real deal,” Wing said of the Bulldogs. “They’re a real good team. They’re the best team we played this year, 6A, 5A or 4A.”

Thomas Ciobanasiu scored Putnam’s lone goal late in the first half, slamming a rebound shot home from close range, after Woodburn’s goalie deflected a free kick by Bixby.

Kingsmen will be

tough next season

With Bixby, a four-year starter, and reserve Treavor Vavrosky the only players lost to graduation, the Kingsmen should be competitive again next season.

“I’m excited about next year,” said Wing. “We’ll have nine seniors coming back, and they’ve had all this experience this season. I expect us to have a great year — first, second or third in league.”

“I think they have quite a bit of potential,” said Bixby. “They’ll have a huge senior presence next year, and most of those kids play soccer together on the same club team.”

The Kingsmen (8-8-1, 4-2-1) were especially tough during the last half of the 2013 season, winning or tying nine of their last 12 games.

Expected to return next year from this year’s state tournament roster are: juniors Oscar Herrera (defense), Adrian Torres (defense), Matt Ciobanasiu (forward), Oscar Gutierrez (midfielder), Kegan Makinster (midfielder), Alexis Sanchez (forward), Jaime Castuanos (midfielder), River Lee (midfielder), Matt Williamson (midfielder), Luka Hartwig (midfielder) and Jesse Martinez (goalkeeper); sophomores Devin McGill (defender), Thomas Ciobanasiu (midfielder), Victor Loza (midfielder), Edgar Sanchez (midfielder) and Jonathan Wilson (defender); and freshman Kevin Zamora (goalkeeper).