Bobcats edge HHS in wild shootout

More than five minutes after the officials and the majority of the spectators had departed the premises, Aberdeen wrapped up an exciting and bizarre boys soccer victory over its trans-Myrtle Street rival.

Juan Oropeza connected on a belated penalty kick to conclude a perfect shootout round that gave the Bobcats a 1-1 (4-2) win over the Grizzlies in a non-league battle of unbeatens Saturday night at Stewart Field.

Oropeza’s shot represented the third time the Bobcats (5-0) celebrated an apparent victory in a finish that, in certain respects, emulated the legendary 6-6 Aberdeen-Hoquiam football tie in 1999.

After Aberdeen’s Juan Lopez and Hoquiam’s Jonathan Molina traded second-half goals, regulation play ended at 1-1. Since it was a non-league contest, the opposing coaches mutually agreed to skip the standard pair of 5-minute overtime periods and proceed directly to the shootout.

Samuel Ruiz, Titus Phillips and Lopez converted Aberdeen’s first three attempts — with Lopez’s shot caroming off the left post and skittering across the goal line on the right side.

Molina and Edgar Fernandez connected for Hoquiam (4-1), which had gone first in the PK round. In between, however, AHS goalkeeper Andres Valdes blocked the second try, by Austin Montoure, to leave the Bobcats with a 3-2 lead in the standard five-shot-per-side shootout.

Valdes also stopped Israel Fernandez’s shot to open the fourth round, igniting a Bobcat celebration. But the Aberdeen goalkeeper was ruled to have moved prematurely, giving Fernandez another attempt.

After Valdes again made the save, the Cats again rejoiced in apparent triumph. The officials left the field and the majority of the spectators filed out.

The Grizzlies, however, still had a chance if the Bobcats missed their fourth shot. After being reminded of that possibility by an onlooker several minutes later, coaches Larry Fleming of Aberdeen and Fidel Sanchez of Hoquiam brought Oropeza and HHS goalkeeper Jamie Bigbie back onto the field — with themselves and Aberdeen assistant principal Derek Cook supervising in lieu of officials.

Oropeza blasted his shot into the lower left corner and this time the Cats could celebrate for real.

The shootout provided a surreal ending to a well-played contest dominated by defense.

Aberdeen’s defense seldom allowed the explosive Molina much open space. Assigning Alex Munoz to mark up on Lopez, Hoquiam kept the Bobcats pinned in the midfield area for nearly the entire first half.

“It was exactly the way I expected it to go, a really close match, well-played by both teams,” Fleming said.

Lopez finally cracked the scoring column with a spectacular goal in the 52nd minute. Gaining control of the ball near the right sideline, the senior forward launched a 40-yard howitzer that soared over Bigbie’s outstretched hands and into the top of the net.

Bigbie turned away a good chance by Oropeza about two minutes later, but the 1-0 lead looked reasonably secure until a Grizzly was taken down just outside the penalty area with about four minutes remaining.

Molina lofted a high free kick. A leaping Valdes got his hands on the ball but succeeded only in deflecting it into the roof of the net.

Saying his team needed stiffer competition, Sanchez was generally happy with his team’s showing. But he said the Grizzlies need to be a bit more diversified on the attack.

“We need to play more of a short game, two-touch (the ball) and go forward toward the goal,” he said.

The versatile Oropeza, a stellar passer and defender, was commended by Fleming for all-around play. The Bobcat coach also cited his entire defense, Valdes and reserve defender-midfielder Tavo Sanchez.

Munoz, midfielder Mario Joya and defender Brenner Carlstrom drew Coach Sanchez’s praise.

Aberdeen took the JV match, 2-1, with Victor Sanabria and Jose Rueda scoring for the Bobcats.

Both teams return to action in their respective leagues Tuesday. Aberdeen hosts Chehalis, while Hoquiam travels to Rochester.