The forecast for Saturday's (Oct. 27) first-place playoff game between HRV and Central Catholic was typical for October -- cold with a little rain.
But the way the Eagles' offense played, it could have been the middle of July, because they were red hot, pouring in five unanswered goals to beat the Rams 5-1 at Parkrose High School.
"This is the perfect way to head into the playoffs," coach Doug Beveridge said. "Our attitude right now is very positive."
Corey Vandlac scored two goals, Matt Dallman and Josh Kitts netted one apiece, and Jordan Thompson chipped in a header goal and assist as the Eagles avenged a 3-0 loss on Oct. 18.
Not only did the Eagles prove they could play with Central Catholic, they humbled the Rams to claim the No. 1 Mt. Hood Conference seed heading into state. The playoffs begin Saturday, Nov. 3 at home versus Madison.
"We basically showed them that (the 3-0 loss) was a fluke," Beveridge said. "This was an example of us being more prepared and simply wanting it more."
However, the road to victory wasn't easy for the Eagles. They were forced to come from behind in this game just as they were unable to do in the first meeting.
Central Catholic got its confidence up early when the Eagle defense failed to clear the ball away deep in its own zone, setting up a 15-yard blast that put the Rams up 1-0.
But instead of being mentally distracted by the one-goal deficit, the players maintained their poise and kept the pressure on the Rams throughout the first half, finally breaking through with 12 minutes left to play.
Ben Saur launched a 50-yard freekick into the Rams' box, where Vandlac was waiting to pounce. The keeper made a quality defensive play to deter the shot, but when he sent the ball out, it went right to Dallman, who chipped a 30-yarder over his head to even the score.
Both teams stepped up their play in the final 10 minutes of the half, neither wanting to concede the lead before halftime.
But the slippery field and perhaps a little luck allowed the Eagles to get behind the Rams defense with just six minutes left.
Dallman played the ball in the air from midfield to Thompson, who sent a perfect through ball between three defenders to Vandlac running down the right side.
Vandlac turned on the jets and ripped a shot from a near-impossible angle that slipped underneath the goalie to give HRV a 2-1 advantage going into halftime.
The Eagles didn't waste any time capitalizing on their momentum, scoring their third goal just 10 minutes into the second. Kitts controlled the ball left side and looked to be crossing the ball into space. But he surprised everyone and sent a bending bullet toward the near post that the keeper couldn't control.
Kitts and Dallman continued to send long shots and crosses into the box to effectively keep the Rams’ defense on guard, while Thompson and Alex Ponce patrolled the middle of the field to set up a bevy of scoring chances.
Saur, John Wall and Andy Holmson also made some brilliant defensive plays to thwart Central's attack, which proved far less dominant on a neutral field.
Rafael Mondragon regained his confidence after giving up the early goal to stifle every shot the Rams sent his way. He also set up numerous counterattacks with a series of booming kicks.
One such counterattack resulted in the Eagles' fourth goal at the 21-minute mark. The defense stole the ball in the HRV zone and cleared the ball upfield into space. But Central Catholic was unable to send the ball out and the opportunistic Vandlac jumped all over it, one-timing the ball past the keeper into the lower right.
HRV put the game away just three minutes later when Ponce's 30-yard strike hit the crossbar and rebounded to Thompson, who headed it in.
The Eagles will look to maintain their offensive assault against Madison on Saturday, Nov. 3 -- a team they beat 2-1 on Sept. 11, but one that has markedly improved.
"We dominated Madison in the first meeting, but we also caught them pretty early in the season," Beveridge said. "We have a lot of confidence going in, but anything can happen in a one-game season."