HOOD RIVER — Lakeridge thought it could come into Westside Field last Saturday and bully Hood River Valley.
But instead of taking the Eagles out of their rhythm during the teams’ second-round Class 4A state playoff matchup, the Pacers became their own worst enemy, losing every ounce of composure on the way to a 5-0 loss.
The No. 2 seed from the Three Rivers League received three red cards during the match — one on an intentional handball in the box — helping HRV take control early.
Senior Alexander Ponce scored two first-half penalty kicks and added another goal late in the game as HRV dominated the flow of play from beginning to end.
“Lakeridge was the same way when we played them in 2001,” said Ponce, who was named the Intermountain Conference Player of the Year on Monday by a unanimous vote. “They’re always talking and trying to knock you out of your rhythm. But they got what they deserved on Saturday,” he said.
Obed Garduño and Sean Rawson added second-half goals for the Eagles, who won their opening round playoff game for the third straight year. Senior goalkeeper Julio Loza recorded the shutout.
But Loza wasn’t alone in neutralizing the Pacers’ attack. Defenders Jesus Lara, Miguel Najera, Lukas Berg, Alvaro Lara and Rawson held steady the entire game, and only forced Loza to make a handful of saves.
“Keeping our composure really helped,” said senior midfielder Stephen Hanners. “A few of our guys got a little frustrated with how they were acting, but it only lasted for a couple minutes. After that, everything seemed to flow pretty well.”
With the victory, HRV moved on to play Crater, the No. 4 seed from the Southern League, at 2 p.m. Tuesday (results not available at press time). If the Eagles were able to hold serve on their home field, they would advance to play the Jesuit-South Salem winner Saturday on the road.
“Crater has built some momentum by winning two playoff games,” HRV coach Doug Beveridge said. “But we have a little momentum of our own after beating a good team by five goals. Crater is the Cinderella team and we want to burst their bubble.”
Heading into Tuesday’s game, HRV held a 13-2 overall record and had won six straight games. The Comets, meanwhile, finished league play at 4-3 before defeating David Douglas, 1-0, in an Oct. 28 play-in game.
Crater then upset No. 9 ranked Grant, 1-0, on Saturday to earn a trip to Hood River. The higher-seeded Eagles earned the home-field advantage because Crater’s first-round game was played on their home field (Medford).
“We’re just going to pressure them a lot and try to use the corners more,” Hanners said. “If we play defense like we did on Saturday, we feel like we can get another win.”
A win over Crater would have given HRV its third consecutive berth in the state quarterfinals — something that Beveridge is proud of but anxious to surpass.
“This is the playoffs,” he said, “and anything can happen. We know what the No. 1 team (Redmond) is like, but I don’t think we are that far behind the rest of the pack. And it never hurts to play your first two games at home.”
The Eagles are 7-1 at Westside this season — same as in 2002. But HRV only had one home playoff game last year before traveling to Lincoln and Sheldon.
The winner of the HRV-Crater game would travel to either Jesuit or South Salem on Saturday. Central Catholic and Sheldon are two potential semifinal opponents.