HERMISTON — The soccer playing boys from Hermiston High can still label themselves undefeated after Thursday’s meeting with The Dalles Wahtonka. But that doesn’t mean they left the pitch at Sandstone Middle School without a new black eye on their season record.
A 61st-minute, corner-kick goal lifted the Eagle Indians to a 2-2 tie with the Bulldogs, the Columbia River Conference leaders. The stunner changes the dynamic of the league race for Hermiston (9-0-2, 3-0-1 CRC), which has two matches remaining on the season including the clincher against Hood River Valley on Saturday.
For the Bulldogs to come away from that one with a victory, coach Rich Harshberger said his team will need to have a complete turnaround from the way they played The Dalles (2-6-3, 0-2-2 CRC) on Thursday.
“If we’re going to have a game like this, this is absolutely the game it needed to be in because if we did this against Hood River they would have punished us, just like The Dalles almost did,” he said.
In a matchup of clear favorite and far long-shot, Harshberger said he could tell from early on that the Hermiston boys didn’t have their heads in the action. Even when the Bulldogs went up 1-0 on a second-minute goal by Pedro Cadenas, the score came more by fluke chance than set play, he said.
Cadenas planted a goal off of a forced turnover by The Dalles right in front of the net. He would score again 12 minutes prior to halftime to give his team the 2-1 lead at that point.
But following Cadenas’ first goal, a heavy fog settled in on the minds of the Bulldogs. They looked lost in the mist, which The Dalles quickly ran through for a tying goal in the fourth minute by Salvador Vasquez.
“We didn’t come out with the same mentality that we always come out with,” Cadenas said. “It was slower for us and we couldn’t pick it up after they tied us.”
When Cadenas put his squad ahead again on a pass from Oscar Contreras, the Bulldogs looked like they’d found a lighthouse to guide them out of the unknown. But the Eagle Indians regrouped at halftime and brought out their full arsenal for the second half.
The Dalles Wahtonka fired off 16 of their 22 shots for the game in the second half, including seven on goal, and looked every bit the aggressors that the Bulldogs were expected to be in a matchup of first-place and last-place teams.
“We’ve got to work hard in that second half, we had to come back into the game and make it at least a tie. We concentrated on that,” said Bence Boros, who scored on a loose ball in front of the net to knot the contest 2-2.
His game-tying shot erased the lingering save of the day for Hermiston’s Ricardo Sotelo in goal. The corner kick that created Boros’ goal came after a huge one-handed safe by Sotelo that pushed the ball over the cross bar and out of play.
A rocket shot from The Dalles’ Emanuel Flores was seeking the top shelf of the goal, when Sotelo threw his hand up and behind him as a last effort. The senior keeper got a few gloved fingers on the ball while stalling in the air to knock it away.
Hermiston’s best scoring threat of the second half came with the Bulldogs still ahead and unable to pad the lead. In the 44th minute, Contreras slipped through the defense and a fed through ball seemingly gave the Bulldogs a 3-1 advantage. But Contreras, an unguarded man on an island, only became that way because he was offsides. The call nullified the goal.
Later, with eight minutes to play, Orlando Guzman took a diving header in the box on a pass from Elias Velasco but missed the net by a few feet. The play was Hermiston’s last scoring chance in a half that saw no Bulldog shots on goal.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.