PORTLAND — The Hood River Valley Eagles played so well on Saturday that they beat Jesuit twice. Once at the end of regulation; the other in overtime.
Despite having Obed Garduño’s game-winner called back with 1:26 left in the second half, the Eagles persevered in overtime and advanced to their first-ever Class 4A state semifinals with a 2-1 win over the Metro League’s No. 1 seed.
Garduño, a sophomore forward, scored both goals for the Eagles, who overcame a late rally to claim a hard-fought road win over the 10-time state champion Crusaders.
“That’s easily the best game I’ve ever played,” Garduño said in his native Spanish. “Now we get to move on to another round and it feels great. Thank God we held on at the end.”
The Eagles’ newest hero, who has quietly helped anchor the HRV front line for most of the season, scored first on a Jorge Hernandez through pass at the 13:20 mark of the second half.
Jesuit managed to equalize when junior Brian Mullaney powered home a loose ball from the top of the box with 4:43 left. But Garduño got behind the defense again with less than 2 minutes to play, touching home another perfect dish by Hernandez.
However, the far side linesman ruled that the ball crossed the goal line before Hernandez delivered the pass to Garduño. That sent the game to overtime and forced the HRV bench to sit and wait.
And Garduño obliged with 3:40 left in the first OT, dribbling through five defenders before unleashing a 30-yard blast into the upper V for the real game-winner.
“We never thought we would lose,” said senior midfielder Todd Price. “Even when they scored at the end of regulation, we knew they wouldn’t get another one. We just stuck with it, and let Obed do what he does best.”
But ask Garduño and he’ll say he wasn’t alone in helping the Eagles to victory on Saturday.
“Everything we do is as a team,” he said. “We’re going to go as far as we can, and it will be done together. As long as we just keep playing like a team and don’t think about our individual performances, I think we will continue to win.”
As of Tuesday morning, the Eagles were one win away from the state title game. But they first had to get past the South Medford Panthers, who traveled to Westside Field for a 12 p.m. game (results not available at press time).
The HRV-South Medford winner will face the Redmond-Centennial winner on Nov. 15 at Tigard High School, and the Eagles want to make sure it’s them.
“None of us want it to end,” said senior goalkeeper Julio Loza, who made three key saves at the end of Saturday’s second overtime.
“We’ve been to the quarters three times now, and we were tired of stopping there. It’s an amazing win for this team, and the best part is, we’re showing people we deserve to be here.”
Loza went on to say that he has never felt more empowered than he did after helping HRV move past the quarterfinals for the first time in school history.
“People on OregonLive were saying that our weakness was at keeper,” he said. “But that just made me want to go out and prove everyone wrong.”
Just as he did against Crater last Tuesday, Loza played with confidence and heart late in the game, and trusted his defense to do the rest. Sean Rawson, Alvaro Lara, Miguel Najera and Jesus Lara were unflappable down the stretch, and to the surprise of everyone but themselves, they are among the state’s final four.
“We’re going to go as far as we possibly can,” Garduño said. “All we can do is control the tempo and hope for good things.”
Because South Medford has already played three home games, the Panthers were forced to travel to Westside Field, where HRV has played just two playoff games thus far.
The No. 1 seed from the Southern Oregon Conference qualified for the semifinals with a 2-1 victory over Central Catholic — a game that ended 4-2 on penalty kicks. Before that, the Panthers upended last year’s co-state champion, Sheldon, by a score of 2-1, and earlier beat Westview by a 2-0 count.
South Medford is led by the Southern Oregon Player of the Year, Spencer Hunter, along with fellow all-league first-teamers Josh Williams and Corey O’Neill. Hunter is the sweeper, Williams controls the midfield, and O’Neill provides the offense, scoring both goals in last Saturday’s win over Sheldon.
On the other side of the bracket awaits a familiar foe, Redmond, the state’s No. 1-ranked team which raised its record to 17-0 on Saturday with a 1-0 overtime win over Tualatin.
HRV lost both games to Redmond this year, but will look for revenge in what could be an all-Intermountain Conference final.
For a full story on Tuesday's game, check out our Web site at: www.hoodrivernews.com.