PENDLETON — The Pendleton Buckaroos did on Day 1 of the boys’ soccer season what no team could manage against Riverside all of last fall: Keep the Pirates from winning.
Incoming Pendleton junior Alden Wyland scored in the 76th minute of Tuesday’s match, wrangling a blocked shot off a defender and pushing the ball past Riverside’s freshman goal keeper Jose Jimenez. The game-tying goal gave the game its 3-3 final.
The Buckaroos mobbed Wyland as he trotted back to the center of the field at Blue Mountain Community College, celebrating a tie that had plenty of victory in it for Pendleton.
The Bucks and Pirates had absurdly contrasting seasons in 2011. Riverside beat teams like they’d misbehaved, outscoring opponents 163-8 while winning the Class 3A/2A/1A state championship behind a 19-0 season record. Not once did Riverside allow three goals in a game.
The Buckaroos stumbled to an 1-11-2 season record in 5A competition. Not once did Pendleton score three goals in a game.
But neither of these teams are the same as a year ago. Riverside is down 11 seniors from that undefeated squad and was also missing a pair of starters because of ineligibility Tuesday. Four freshman and two sophomores dotted the starting lineup for the Pirates (0-0-1).
Despite those shortcomings, Pirates’ coach Carlos Velasco expected to win — maybe not like the 7-1 beating Riverside handed Pendleton in Boardman last year, but to win nonetheless.
“We dominated most of the time. They just got to the goal five times and they scored on three of those,” Riverside coach Carlos Velasco said. “I felt like we need to work on our shooting because we had two or three to the crossbar and so many shots on goal.”
Riverside peppered the Pendleton net with shots, 18 on goal and just as many that narrowly missed or were blocked by defenders. Buckaroo keeper Grant Bannister, also a freshman, blocked 12 shots before coming out of the game with an injury late in the second half.
Bannister’s only major mistake yielded the match’s first score. The keeper strayed too far from the net and Pirate Edgar Rodriguez caught him out of position for a goal in the sixth minute. But Pendleton (0-0-1) responded with two goals in the next eight minutes, one each from Michael Moran and Victor Garcia. The Bucks led 2-1 at the half.
An unhappy Velasco tried to fire up his players during the intermission with a little extra motivation.
“I told them if we wanted to win we needed to put a little more into it,” he said. “And if they’re not ready to play, we’ve got 12, 14 guys on the JV roster over there that we can move up at any time.”
His players responded. Rene Ramos snuck a ball past Bannister minutes into the second half and Francisco Velasquez followed with one soon afterward as Riverside continued to dominate ball possession.
But Pendleton saw a pattern in the Pirates’ offense, Moran said.
“We figured out they liked to come in from the right and attack,” the senior said. “If we could be prepared for attacks on the right, we could shut them down on the right.”
Riverside’s best chance to break the tie came in the final minute. A bounding ball landed in front of Jose Amaya just off the left side of the goal box but with the defense closing in and the ball still bouncing, the forward couldn’t put good contact on it, kicking it out of the air and wide right of the net. Pendleton took advantage and clear the ball. The final whistle sounded seconds later.
Riverside will look to rebound against Central Christian in a Special District 4 matchup next Tuesday and Pendleton will try and funnel the good feelings of this tie into a victory with La Grande coming to town Thursday. The Tigers were the lone team to fall to the Bucks last season, but coach Rob Hillmick has more than just one win in his sights for this year.
“They’ve got a lot better soccer than this in front of them if they can play,” he said.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.