Most Intermountain Conference boys soccer observers have already given second place to the Hood River Valley Eagles.
But popular opinion didn’t include the Mountain View Cougars, who came to Westside Field last Saturday with a chip on their shoulder.
Still in the running to host a first-round playoff game, Mountain View brought everything it had against HRV. But the Eagles’ experience paid off in the end for a 3-2 victory.
“Mountain View is a playoff team, and they are always tough,” coach Doug Beveridge said. “But the only things that kept the game from being a shutout were a dubious penalty kick at the end of the first half, and a keeper error early in the game.”
The Cougars took an early 1-0 lead when HRV keeper Julio Loza mishandled the ball on the line. But HRV got right back in it when junior striker Jorge Hernandez corralled a long pass from defender Miguel Najera and poked the ball into the left corner of the net.
The Eagles were back on the board just minutes later when Obed Garduño’s shot attempt deflected off the keeper right to Hernandez, who calmly passed the ball into the net for his ninth goal of the season.
“We felt like we had ‘em at 1-0,” Hernandez said. “But once we scored, we knew we could get more. We just stayed calm and got the lead. Then, the third goal really got us going.”
Toward the end of the first half, senior Alexander Ponce fired home a free kick from the top of the box to make it 3-1. But Mountain View was awarded a penalty kick in the closing seconds of the half to make it 3-2.
As a result, the HRV defense was forced to bear down for the entire second half.
“The end of the game was a little bit tense,” Beveridge said. “But we came through. These guys are all gamers.”
Beveridge complimented Loza on bouncing back from his shaky start to make two key saves down the stretch. The goalposts also helped the Eagles late in the game, but the real credit goes to the defense.
“They almost came back on us there at the end,” Hernandez said. “Mountain View has a lot of big guys and they didn’t give us any time with the ball. But our defense didn’t give them any time either.”
HRV is now 8-2 in the IMC with four games remaining. But before the Eagles can claim second place, they must beat Hermiston Tuesday (results not available) and Summit on Friday at home.
“We should win both, but nothing is a given,” Beveridge said.