The teams battle to a 1-1 deadlock in conference play

by: DAN BROOD - GETTING DEFENSIVE -- Tigard senior Sean McManamon (right) looks to get the ball from Century's Carlos Hernandez-Morfin in last week's game. HILLSBORO — The Tigers picked up their intensity.

They also seemed to pick up their level of play.

It wasn’t quite enough to get them a victory. But, instead, they notched a hard-fought draw.

The Tigard High School boys soccer team, behind a second-half rally, played Century to a 1-1 tie in a Pacific Conference match held last Thursday at the 53rd avenue sports fields in Hillsboro.

“It was intense and a good fight,” Tigard senior Javier Sanchez-Figueroa said after the match. “We played well in the first 15 minutes, then it got kind of sloppy. We played better in the second half. We really wanted to win.”

“After the first half, we talked about our mistakes,” Tigard senior goalkeeper Joni Mercado said. “Then we came out and gave it our best.”

Century moved to 1-0-1 in conference and to 5-1-2 on the season at that point. Tigard moved to 1-0-1 in conference play and to 4-3-1 with the tie.

“It was one of those vintage league games,” Tigard coach Tracy Hasson said. “We haven’t had a game like that so far. It was more about competition. It felt like a playoff atmosphere. This will be great preparation for us for November.”

Both defenses seemed to set the tone early on in last Thursday’s match.

Century got an early shot by junior Carlos Hernandez-Morfin and Tigard countered with an attempt by senior Sean McManamon.

The Jaguars were able to break through first on a goal by sophomore Carlos Pilego Zavala coming in the 21st minute. Zavala was able to drive past the Tigard defense and take a shot from 15 yards away. His shot got just past a diving Mercado, glanced off the side of the right post and then hit the back of the net to give Century a 1-0 lead.

The Jaguars definitely seemed to have momentum after that, but the Tiger defense kept the Jaguars from capitalizing again.

In the 30th minute, Mercado leaped to punch away a Century crossing pass in front of the Tigard goal. In the 36th minute, Tiger junior defender Clint Raye went up high to head away a Jaguar corner kick.

Raye, and other Tigard defenders, junior Cam VanSant, junior Joseph Lea and senior Mick Whitehead, stepped up to keep the speedy Jaguars in check the remainder of the first half.

The fired-up Tigers then went on the attack early in the second half, and that paid off.

In the 49th minute, Tigard junior Alex Figueroa, cutting deep toward the Century goal, was taken down by Jaguar senior goalkeeper Quinn Marshall in the box, and a foul was called.

McManamon put the ensuing penalty kick into the left side of the of the Century goal to tie the match at 1-1.

Both sides seemed to turn up the intensity even more from there.

Soon after the tying goal, Tigard got a hard-hit shot from Sanchez-Figueroa that sailed just high and wide of the mark.

In the 56th minute, Mercado made a save on a free-kick attempt by Century senior Gilberto Arreola Lopez. In the 61st minute, Marshall made a diving save on running shot by McManamon.

But, in the 71st minute, it looked for sure that the Jaguars were going to be able to take the lead — but Mercado made sure that didn’t happen.

The Tigard goalie made a spectacular diving deflection of an open shot by Jaguar sophomore Omar Alcazar Polvos from 12 yards out on the right side. Mercado then quickly jumped up and dove to his right to block a follow-up shot by Century freshman Eric Guzman, who had an open look from 10 yards out on the left side after he got to the loose ball.

“I was just in the moment,” Mercado said of his back-to-back diving saves.

“That was amazing,” Sanchez-Figueroa said. “He’s a beast.”

Both teams seemed to work hard in the final minutes in an attempt to get a go-ahead goal. Tigard had the final attempt, coming on a ground shot by freshman Francisco Ramirez in the final minute, but that shot was saved, leaving the teams with a 1-1 tie.

“This was a good test,” Sanchez-Figueroa said.

“We can do better,” Mercado said. “We just need to work on our mistakes. That’s what practice is for.”

On Tuesday, Tigard picked up a key conference victory as it bested McMinnville 1-0 in a match held at Tigard High School. With the victory, the Tigers moved to 2-0-1 in conference play, putting them in first place in the standings. McMinnville was 2-0 in league matches prior to Tuesday’s contest.

The Tigers will be back in action Monday when they face rival Tualatin in a league match starting at 7 p.m. at Tualatin High School.

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