Hermiston challenges, but can’t beat HRV boys soccer

After six consecutive seasons of winning the Columbia River Conference, the HRV boys soccer team has largely outgrown the smallest league in 5A, developing rivalries with nonconference 5A powerhouses like Wilsonville, Woodburn, Summit, and Hillsboro while rolling CRC’s Pendleton and The Dalles.

Hermiston, however, has been the exception. Last year, in the two teams’ second meeting, Hermiston held the visiting Eagles to a 2-2 draw — the first time since 2012 that HRV failed to defeat a CRC opponent.

In their first meeting this year, the Bulldogs entered the game with a 7-1-1 record and a top-10 ranking in 5A. Once again, Hermiston put the screws to the Eagles, shutting out HRV in the first half and then scoring first — a goal that came halfway through the second half on a free kick opportunity.

As they’ve done most every other match this season, the top-ranked Eagles (8-0-2, 2-0 CRC) pulled out the win. Ninety seconds after Hermiston’s goal, striker Noe Magaña scored the equalizer for HRV off a cross from defender Pico Sankari to make it 1-1. In the 72nd minute, it was Magaña’s turn to assist, setting up Jorge Campos at the far post, who put it away for the game-winner. Travis Running didn’t have quite as much work to do in his previous game, where he recorded a baker’s dozen saves against Woodburn, but still had a busy night in net for the Eagles, making nine stops.

HRV Head Coach Jaime Rivera was surprised at how few risks either team took during the first half of play, seemingly content with feeling their opponent out. He wasn’t surprised with the close score and expected Hermiston will offer a similar challenge when the teams meet again, this time in Hood River Oct. 18.

“I think they’re going to come wanting to have revenge,” he said. “They want to secure a high ranking.”

It was the third game this season the Eagles have found themselves in the unusual position of playing from behind — even if it was only for a minute and a half. It’s not exactly a spot Rivera wants to be in, but it has shown him something very important about the team.

“What I am seeing with the guys is that it doesn’t really shake them,” Rivera said about the team playing from behind. “That’s one of the things I’m proud of, is that they keep cool heads… their heads were high, they weren’t slouching, they took responsibility and scored 90 seconds later. I think that shows backbone.”

Rivera will be hoping for more breathing room in the team’s next contest on Tuesday, where the Eagles will host The Dalles (3-7, 1-1) at Westside Elementary at 4 p.m.

“We are looking to give substitutes and reserves playing time as we head into the playoffs and give our starters a rest here or there. It always seems to give our team a culture boast,” he explained. “It’s neat watching the starters sitting on the bench, encouraging and having a great time watching the subs play.”

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