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Forest Grove earns at-large playoff bid

Vikings drop a tough 3-2 decision to McMinnville but still make the playoffs


By amanda miles

The News-Times

Last Thursday was a tough night all the way around for the Forest Grove boys soccer team.

Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES
 - Forest Grove soccer players Bryan Martinez (10) and Mauricio Garcia-Flores (13) congratulate teammate Ivan Garcia after he scored a goal against McMinnville last week.First, it was Senior Night, always an emotional event. Second, it was a pivotal matchup — the Vikings, battling for their playoff lives, hosted rival McMinnville, which was trying to stay in the Greater Valley Conference title race. Third, and most importantly, junior midfielder Carlos Aguilar-Rosas went down partway through the second half with an injury and was taken to the sideline before being transported from the field by paramedics.

And then there was the result. After taking a 1-0 lead late in the first half, the Vikings fell 3-2 to the Grizzlies.

The loss dropped Forest Grove to 8-5-1 overall and 4-4 in the incredibly competitive GVC for sixth place. McMinnville (7-4-3, 5-1-2) was forced to settle for second place when McNary defeated Sprague 3-2 the same night to finish at 6-1-1.

“It sucks. There’s not a word for it. It’s just really disappointing,” said Ivan Garcia, who scored the Vikings’ second goal, about the evening. “Your whole attitude, it just brings it down to the very lowest it could be. It’s just really not a good feeling. We just have to keep on pushing forward, hoping for the best in the future.”

A silver lining did emerge, though. Perhaps in part due to the strength of the GVC, the Vikings finished the regular season ranked No. 23 in Class 6A. That ranking was good enough for the team to secure one of the classification’s four at-large berths into the state playoffs.

The top four teams in each league automatically made the 32-team playoff field. The next four spots then went to the four highest-ranked teams across the state that did not automatically qualify out of their respective leagues. Notably, yet another GVC team, South Salem, also made the field as an at-large qualifier. The final four spots were determined by four play-in games on Tuesday (results were not available at press time).

All of that means that the Vikings are scheduled to play a first-round game on Saturday. The opponent had not been determined at press deadline.

None of that was clear last week, though, when both Forest Grove and McMinnville had a lot on the line and played like it.

“This has been one of our rivals for a long time, so we have a lot of history with this team,” sophomore midfielder Brandon Olvera said. “It felt almost like a final, honestly, because the bragging rights, so much on the line, and then plus the rankings and all that. I think it was just an unbelievable match.”

Forest Grove struck first with a goal from Diego Gaspar late in the first half. Cristian Romero — one of nine seniors the program recognized at halftime — drove a ball into the penalty area and it fell to the freshman, who took a couple of touches before finishing from close range past McMinnville goalkeeper Alfredo Valeriano.

That lead lasted for a while, but not long enough.

First, Cameron Autencio equalized midway through the second half when he ran onto a free kick and flicked a shot over Forest Grove goalkeeper Christian Calzada. A few minutes later, Jose Bautista bombed a free kick from about 35 yards into the upper right corner of the net to put the visitors on top 2-1.

“I think we played well. We just got kind of set back after those two goals because we kind of got shocked by them,” Olvera said. “I feel overall we played very well, but we just couldn’t put in the opportunities we got.”

It seemed improbable and unlikely, but Garcia pulled the Vikings level at 2-2 with a few minutes remaining when he blasted a shot from perhaps 40 yards out at goal. The hard-struck ball had just enough air under it to carry over Valeriano and into the back of the net, setting off an effusive celebration from Garcia and his teammates.

But they gave it right back, as the Grizzlies immediately drove the other way and scored on another Autencio goal just seconds later.

At that point, the game was delayed for about 20 minutes while paramedics attended to Aguilar-Rosas. Forest Grove athletic department officials were not able to comment on the junior’s status due to health privacy laws.

“It’s not a good feeling, especially after a loss against rivals, too,” Garcia admitted, summing up the evening.

Note: The nine seniors recognized at the match were Romero, Calzada, Ricky Torres, Zachary Nelson, Jacob Olson, Bryan Martinez, Garrett Johnson, Giovanny Trujeque-Lozano and David Torres.

First-round playoff matchups will be determined this week. Check osaa.org for updated brackets and game times.

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