In the final seven minutes of a district opener, Aberdeen’s scoring chances finally translated into scores.
Securing some breathing room with goals by Titus Phillips and Juan Lopez in the closing 7:09, the Bobcats finished off stubborn Chehalis, 3-0, in the opening round of the District IV 2A Boys Soccer Tournament Saturday night at Stewart Field.
The Evergreen 2A League champion Bobcats (13-2) will host Hockinson, a 5-1 winner over Centralia, in a district semifinal scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, also at Stewart Field. The winner of that contest will clinch a state berth.
Time of possession isn’t a statistic recorded in high school soccer, but the Bobcats must have enjoyed at least a 3-to-1 advantage in that department. The Bearcats, who had split with Aberdeen in Evergreen 2A League play, launched only one shot on-goal in the first half.
Yet, thanks to a Chehalis defense that was packed in around the penalty area, Aberdeen owned only a precarious 1-0 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.
“We weren’t awesome, especially in the last 30 yards,” AHS coach Larry Fleming acknowledged. “I’ve got to give (Chehalis) credit, they stacked guys in the box and played really well defensively. It was a good game.”
One pivotal sequence essentially sealed the outcome.
Bobcat goalkeeper Andres Valdes blocked a Bearcat shot in the 73rd minute, but was still out of the net when the rebound came back to Chehalis’ Cristian Sevilla. His shot was on target, but AHS defender Seth Caba filled the slot in front of the goal and made the save.
On Aberdeen’s next run, freshman Isaiah Contreras sent about a 40-yard rocket off the crossbar. The rebound caromed back about 15 yards back to Phillips, who beat goalkeeper Skyler Lucas for the marker with 7:09 remaining.
“Titus hustled as soon as the (Contreras) shot was taken, on the chance it would go off the crossbar or the keeper and guess what, (it did),” Fleming said.
Lopez, who had also scored the opening goal, was taken down in the box and awarded a penalty kick with 2:09 left. Jesse Gonzalez, who replaced Lucas in goal for the PK, stopped the original shot. He couldn’t secure the ball, however, and Lopez poked in the rebound to conclude the scoring.
Both figuratively and in soccer terminology, the high-scoring Lopez was a marked man throughout the contest as the high-scoring senior forward was surrounded by defenders each time he touched the ball.
He did, however, take advantage of his first prime scoring opportunity.
Taking a pass from Sam Ruiz, Lopez gained possession just inside the left sideline, dribbled toward the wing and found the tiny opening between Lucas and the right post from 18 yards out in the 10th minute.
The Bobcats had chances to add to their margin early in the second half, but Juan Oropeza narrowly missed connections on a cross from Lopez and Phillips’ mid-range attempt about four minutes later was gathered in by Lucas.
Chehalis found the net midway through the second half, but the score was nullified when officials ruled that a Bearcat had kicked the ball loose from Valdez’s grasp on the ground after the Bobcat goalkeeper had gained possession.
Phillips, a converted defender now playing forward, was among the Bobcats who drew Fleming’s praise. He also cited Oropeza and Lopez in the midfielder, defender Ruiz and outside midfielder Ben Barene.