It’s unusual for a high school team to play its fall season home opener three weeks into September, but for the HRV boys’ soccer team, that was the case this week. On Sept. 19, the Eagles welcomed La Salle Prep for a non-conference matchup.
Heading into this game, the Eagles were 1-1 coming off a 2-0 victory on the road last week against Summit. The Falcons came into Hood River following a 2-0 loss at Woodburn last Thursday, putting them at 1-1-1 for the season.
Conditions for this game would be unfamiliar, regarding this season particularly, as Hood River saw its first real glimpse of rain hours before kickoff.
However, the rain would go away and the sun would shine on the fields at Westside Elementary.
The game started off with a lot of back and forth play between the two teams and it wasn’t until about halfway into the first half when the Eagles offense started to put the pressure on the Falcons defenders.
A few shots at goal weren’t able to find the back of the net early on for the Eagles, but pressure from forwards Fabian Magaña and Domingo Barragan would change all that.
With 13 minutes left in the first half, Magaña advanced the ball upfield to Barragan, who made a few defenders miss with crafty ball handling and power for a shot at goal.
The first attempt was blocked, but Barragan wouldn’t give up on the play.
The goalie for the Falcons wasn’t able to control the ball, giving Barragan a rebound opportunity and another shot, of which he took advantage.
Putting the Eagles up 1-0, Barragan’s goal at 27 minutes would be the lone goal for both teams in the first half.
Much like the beginning of the first half, there wasn’t much flow to the game for either side early in the second half, as both team were scrambling for possession of the ball constantly.
Eventually, La Salle noticed the level of difficulty it would take to get a good shot at goal from up close with the rapid change in possession happening, so they began taking some shots from long distance and it paid off.
With five minutes left in the game, a Falcons forward found some room in the middle of the field for a shot at goal yards outside of the penalty box.
Eagles goal keeper Alejandro Rodriguez had a chance to make a play on the ball, but it snuck past him in the left corner of the net, tying the game at 1-1.
With all the momentum swinging to the Falcons, the Eagles had to come up with something quick if they wanted to escape a draw.
Urgency to score was beginning to set in for the Eagles as two minutes left in the game was announced by players and coaches.
A turnover by La Salle gave the Eagles one last shot at goal.
Robby Running, a forward for the Eagles, recovered the turnover and pushed the ball upfield, but with a limp.
On the play, Running injured himself as he dribbled into the heart of the defense.
However, Running continued to play through it. Holding his left leg with each step he took, he found an opening for a through ball to forward Erik Pitones.
Right as Running passed the ball ahead, he collapsed to the ground in pain, but he never took his eye off the play as he watched Pitones finish things off for the Eagles.
Pitones got behind the last line of defense for the Falcons, forcing the goalkeeper to make a play on the ball. A dive by the goalkeeper almost saved the day for the Falcons, but Pitones was able to keep control of the ball and get past the goalie.
With one minute and 30 seconds remaining on the game clock, Pitones put the Eagles up 2-1 in what would be the game winning goal, putting HRV at 2-1 on the season.
The final play of the game for Running showed both his coaches and teammates “commitment,” said Head Coach Jaime Rivera. “We (the team) talked about how that was an example of what it is to care about your team — to sacrifice your body for your teammates and be ‘all in.’”
After the game, Rivera felt that the boys’ had an “ugly” game against the Falcons. “We didn’t follow the game plan very well. We worked in practice all week to have attack up the wings, but our attack became unbalanced.
“We played the ball wide, but we also were too direct and bypassed our center midfielders, who are able to change the direction of our attack,” he said. “Instead we attempted long passes to our forwards, which eventually led to player exhaustion, particularly at the forward and center mid positions.”
But Rivera couldn’t help but admire the “grit” his team showed him on Tuesday. “We did not give up,” he said. “There were great examples of commitment throughout the game and none bigger than Erik Pitones getting his foot on Robby Running's pass to seal the win.”
The boys would take a day off on Wednesday to recover before their Thursday matchup on the road against Central Catholic.
Prior to Thursday’s game, Rivera said that heading into the heart of the schedule, his team needs to improve behind the scenes. “With so much talent and passion, our job will be to figure out a way to play for ‘we,’ rather than ‘me,’” he said.
In a very competitive game against Central Catholic on Thursday, the Eagles’ weren’t able to finish the Rams off as they lost by a score of 2-0.
The Rams from the 6A conference headed into this game 2-1-2, coming off a loss to 6-0 Grant in a non-league matchup by a score of 2-0. The boys head into their home game this weekend against Hillsboro at 2-2 on the season.
This game will be played at Henderson Stadium on Sept. 23 at noon. Following them will be the girls team, as they face Hillsboro at 2 p.m.
After this weekend, the boys will begin league play next Tuesday, Sept. 26 as they travel to Pendleton to face the Buckaroos.
Pendleton heads into this game at 1-4 on the season and are recently coming off a 4-1 win against Redmond on the road.
The HRV boys will end next week on the road at Woodburn.
The last matchup between these two schools came last year as the boys came out with a 4-0 victory at home against the Bulldogs from Woodburn.