The boys soccer program at Hood River Valley has hit some early-season bumps on the road to a 5A state playoff game, but on Tuesday, Sept. 25, the team seemed to have finally gained control of this season.
A home matchup versus Crook County ended with the Eagles coming out on top by a final score of 8-1.
The victory for HRV moves the boys to an uncomfortable 2-3-1 overall record, but in league play, the Eagles are now 1-0-1.
Against the Cowboys, HRV was only ahead 2-1 at halftime before outscoring Crook County 6-0 in the second half.
“The boys took ownership for what was going on and I barely had to say a word during halftime,” said head coach Jaime Rivera. “I just quit talking and said let’s go do it.”
Rivera’s message to the boys after the game, “I’m glad you boys did that in second half.”
Over the first five games of this season, the boys had only scored two goals, compared to last season’s eight goals through the first five games.
“We played loose against Crook County and looked like we weren’t under pressure anymore,” said Rivera, regarding the Eagles’ second half of play. “I feel like we’re under so much pressure as a group right now and it’s my job to get our team in the right mindset before a game.”
That pressure Rivera is referring to comes from the historical boys soccer teams of the past, ones who won back-to-back titles in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
Championship, semi-final and quarterfinal appearances have been a yearly occurrence for the boys, especially in the past few seasons, and that significance is constantly on the minds of a boys team that has gotten off to a unaccustomed start.
But against Crook County, Rivera finally saw something he hadn’t seen from the varsity group this season: “We finally got in rhythm,” he said.
“Our game against Crook County looked to me like a high-quality practice, the goals we scored looked exactly like what we practice. In the second half, we got into one or two touch passing, which lead to easy opportunities at the goal.” said Rivera. “We are a superior program and against Crook County, I told them we can either play down to their level, or we can show why we are a superior program in the state and in the second half we showed just that.”
Leader in goals for HRV versus Crook County was Fabian Magaña, as he notched in a career-high three goals.
After missing the past two games due to a shoulder injury, senior captain Robby Running was eased back into the lineup, placed into the backfield instead of at his normal position in center-midfield.
But being in the backfield wouldn’t stop Running from finding his way into the scoring column as he put in two goals versus the Cowboys.
Senior forward Erik Pitones scored his first goal of the season versus Crook County.
Sophomore and freshman duo Ivan Solano and Jaden Dubon each scored against the Cowboys.
Assists leaders versus Crook County: Emy Perez (2), Dubon (2), Pitones (1), Kenzo Nakanishi (1), Ivan Carabantes (1) and Crix Valdez (1).
In the goal for HRV, Zachary Marble had a team-high four saves and sophomore Andrew Mondragon finished with two saves.
With a little over half the season remaining, Rivera knows that there’s still a long way to go.
“I give them little hints of what it is like to play playoff soccer, things like what the weather is like during that time of the year and what it’ll be like to play under the lights at the new turf field at Henderson. I just try to get them excited,” said Rivera. “It’s all about getting them dreaming about what it feels like as a team when it’s all the on the line, and there are only 16 teams left in the state, we will keep that picture in mind moving forward. But we also need to keep it day-by-day to not get ahead of ourselves. We just need to have that constant reminder of what playoff soccer is like, so the boys keep itching for it.”
Next up for the Eagles was a road matchup in Redmond on Thursday, Sept. 27.
The boys picked up their second league win, and third win of the season, as they beat the Panthers by a final score of 5-1.
The Eagles are currently 3-3-1 overall and 2-0-1 in league play. The win puts HRV and The Dalles at a lock in first place in conference standings.
HRV will be back at home on Tuesday, Oct. 2 against Pendleton, kick-off is at 4 p.m. at Westside.