PORTLAND — This time last year, all Dereck Ponce could do was watch as his HRV boys soccer teammates danced their way into the state quarterfinals.
Sidelined with a knee injury, the all-league center midfielder was unable to lend a boot when his team needed him most. So when Ponce finally got a chance to make his mark on another state title run, he chose instead to use his head.
Ponce’s over-the-shoulder header off Matt Dallman’s corner kick gave the Eagles a two-goal advantage late in the second half of Tuesday’s showdown with Lincoln, and propelled them to a 3-2 win at Mike Walsh Stadium.
“I just flicked it and hoped it went somewhere,” said the senior team captain, who played a vital role in helping HRV reach the quarterfinals for the second straight year. “It was only my second goal all season, but I guess they’ve come when we’ve needed ‘em.”
Ponce’s other goal this season put the finishing touches on last Saturday’s 4-1 second-round win over North Salem, and he couldn’t have been any more pleased.
“This means so much to me because I missed last year’s playoffs,” Ponce said. “Being hurt is so frustrating, especially when you’re on a team that has a shot.”
And the Eagles have a pretty good shot at that. Top-ranked Jesuit has already been eliminated, along with No. 3 South Medford and No. 6 Tigard. The two biggest threats on HRV’s side of the bracket are today’s opponent, Sheldon, and No. 5-ranked Southridge, which finished second to Jesuit in the Metro league.
Former Mt. Hood Conference rival Central Catholic also reached the quarterfinals with a 2-1 win over McMinnville, and will face Southridge today in Portland. The winner of that game will move on to face the winner of HRV vs. Sheldon (6 p.m. today in Eugene) in the semifinals on Nov. 12.
Aside from a favorable draw, some additional variables that give HRV a more-than-decent shot to reach the semifinals — or perhaps the finals — are Ponce’s senior counterparts Corey Vandlac, Andy Holmson and Dallman.
Vandlac and Dallman, who lead the team in scoring with 15 and 10 goals, respectively, each found the net in the first half of Tuesday’s win, and will try to strike early and often versus Sheldon.
“We just need to take the shots when we’ve got ‘em,” said Vandlac, whose 20-yard blast at the end of the first half gave HRV a 2-1 halftime lead. “We can’t get beat to the ball in the middle of the field either.”
When that happens, speedy strikers like Lincoln’s Tyler Hasman can find themselves in a dangerous position. Hasman hassled the HRV defense for the entire first half and was able to break through for a game-tying goal just minutes after Dallman’s go-ahead strike in the 22nd minute.
Hasman almost had another goal, too, but Holmson came sliding out of nowhere to clear the ball away just as it approached the goal line.
“Those forwards were dangerous,” HRV coach Doug Beveridge said. “I thought they might break through there at the end, but Andy really held us together on ‘D’ tonight.”
The final score may have only been 3-1 if it weren’t for a late-game penalty kick awarded to Hasman when he collided with Holmson in the box. Nick Asakawa converted the PK, but the Cardinals were unable to crack the HRV back line.
Seniors Arnulfo Santillan, Joel Santillan and Jon Munk, juniors Alex Ponce, Todd Price and Julio Loza, and sophomores Alvaro Lara and Sean Rawson were also instrumental in the Eagles most complete game of the season.