A great start by Aberdeen clinches league title, 5-1, over Capital

Aberdeen couldn’t have asked for a better start to Tuesday’s regular-season finalè against Capital.

In the first 10 minutes, cousins Juanito Lopez and Juan Oropeza scored and assisted on each other’s goals to give the Bobcats the lead they’d never relinquish in a dominating 5-1 Evergreen 2A boys soccer match victory at Stewart Field.

On Senior Night, the two seniors accounted for all five goals — Lopez with three, Oropeza with two — to help power Aberdeen (10-2, 12-2) to the undisputed league title. On Saturday, the Bobcats will host Chehalis in the opening round of the District IV 2A playoffs at 7 p.m. at Stewart Field.

“I’m really excited for my seniors to go out on this game,” AHS head coach Larry Fleming said. “We did really well. There is no way we’re going to dominate every minute of the game, but when they came at us, we weathered it. We were more aggressive and made them work for every shot. Great job.”

The first meeting between the teams was a rallying cry for Aberdeen. After a 2-2 tie at the end of regulation, a first-minute penalty kick call in overtime allowed Capital (8-4, 8-6) to escape with a 3-2 overtime win.

The Bobcats were unhappy with the call and the result. This time, there were no last-minute heroics.

Five minutes into the match, Lopez ran down a long ball at the far right corner and dribbled back into the penalty area. From there, he fed Oropeza on an overlap run and the senior midfielder blasted a 20-yard shot off goalkeeper Van Soderberg’s hands for the opening marker.

Oropeza returned the favor in the 10th minute, feeding Lopez on a run that allowed him to beat Soderberg with a dipsy-doodle dribble into an open net for a 2-0 lead.

“You couldn’t have asked for a better start; that was perfect,” Lopez said. “I love playing with (Juan). We’ve been playing together since we were little kids. He knows me. It is a joy to play with my cousin.”

The match settled down after the goals and Aberdeen matched Capital’s intensity and physical play throughout. Aberdeen goalkeeper Andres Valdes faced some adversity early but made his biggest save in the second half.

Capital got its only goal on the board in the 31st minute. A run down the left wing by Apollo Heidal turned into a dangerous cross that Alan Ryan got a foot onto. The ball was sent away from Valdes into the left netting for a 2-1 score.

After halftime, which saw one of the Harbor Youth Soccer League teams scrimmage against itself in honor of Youth Soccer Night, Lopez and Oropeza went back at it.

Four minutes into the second half, Lopez fed Oropeza on a run down the left side, but his shot on goal was blocked. The ball found Lopez again, who lifted the ball back to Oropeza. With a header down to control the ball, Oropeza went cross-net to beat Soderberg for a 3-1 lead.

The emotional turning point of the match came in the 52nd minute inside the AHS penalty area.

A collision between Aberdeen’s Alex Barene and Capital’s Nick Boatright brought out the athletic trainer to tend to Barene. The officials huddled and called for a penalty kick for Capital, much to Aberdeen’s dismay.

Valdes turned that dismay into celebration when he went low right to easily parry away Boatright’s spot kick. One minute later, Lopez scored the goal of the season.

With his back to the goal, Lopez kicked the ball over his head toward goal. Soderberg stumbled a bit as the ball went over him and across the goal line for the marker at 4-1.

“I was trying to do a back-flip shot, but the rules in high school don’t allow you to do a back flip,” Lopez said, “so I just decided to kick it without the flip. It actually worked. That was pretty good. When everyone (in the stands) showed up, including the cheerleaders, it got all of us going, even before we stepped onto the field. That was great.”

“Valdes’ PK save, that was a huge swing, because we go right back down and score,” Fleming added. “Not only do we feel justified after we lost (the first time) on a PK, but the same kid took it. Overall, a couple of breakdowns on defense, but as the game went on, I never felt like we were in danger. We had a lot of chances.”

Lopez ended the scoring with a solo run down the left in the 59th minute. The forward danced the ball around three Capital defenders, dribbled next to the end line toward Soderberg and the Capital goal and shot an acute-angled blast that hit the far right post and went in.

Before the match, Aberdeen honored its seniors — Ben Barene, Uriel Espino, Blake Liscombe, Lopez, Oropeza, Cody Mishler, Sam Ruiz, Dominic Shaffer, Jose Tinoco and Rupe Ruiz.

Aberdeen and Capital tied, 1-1, in the JV match. Jake Myers scored for AHS, which finished with a 9-2-3 record.