HERMISTON — Three league games remain for the Hood River Valley boys soccer team, but they are only a formality at this point.
The Eagles haven’t officially wrapped up second place in the Intermountain Conference. Yet with Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Hermiston, and upcoming games against Pendleton and Crook County, HRV has already staked its claim to a first-round home playoff game.
“The next few wins should help us build momentum for the playoffs,” said senior Todd Price, who has already done the math. “We know we have some things to work on if we’re going to win in the playoffs, but we have a lot of confidence in our defense.”
The only potential stumbling block for HRV in the season’s final week was on Friday, when fourth-place Summit paid a visit to Westside Field (results not available at press time).
The Eagles (9-2) beat the Storm 3-2 on Sept. 19 in Bend. And while Summit is more competitive than Pendleton or Crook County, they lack the firepower of the IMC’s three other playoff teams.
“We feel like we can play with anyone after playing Redmond so tough the last time,” Price said in reference to the state’s only unbeaten and new No. 1-ranked team.
“Our midfield keeps getting better with every game, and we have guys up front who can score.”
Senior Alexander Ponce and junior Jorge Hernandez lead the team with 14 and 11 goals, respectively, and combined to score three of four goals in Tuesday’s win (Hernandez two; Ponce one).
“If we need a goal, Jorge and Alex will find a way,” Price said. “And Obed (Garduño) has helped us immensely. He works so well with everyone and plays with a lot of poise when he has the ball.”
Garduño scored the Eagles’ fourth goal Tuesday, and has used his speed and strength over the past few games to pressure opposing defenses into making mistakes.
“He’s been a force,” Price said. “We are a better attacking team with him in there, for sure.”
Price also complimented the efforts of outside midfielder Jose Avila for the Eagles’ late-season surge, which has produced eight wins in the past nine games.
“We are confident right now,” he said. “We just need to keep it up.”