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Jesus Rodriguez's half-field shot caps a career-high five goal performance

PHIL HAWKINS - Woodburn junior Jesus Rodriguez scored four goals in the first 29 minutes of Woodburn's 6-3 victory over the West Salem Titans on Saturday.
After opening the season with five straight victories, the No. 10 Woodburn boys soccer team experienced their first bumps in the road toward the end of September.

First there was a 2-0 loss to No. 1 Hood River Valley in their final non-conference game on Sept. 28, then there was a 1-1 draw against South Albany in last week's league opener. The woes continued Thursday after Woodburn fell behind early against a one-win Silverton team.

Though the Bulldogs righted the ship, defeating the Foxes 4-2, the team was definitely not playing its best soccer and was in need of a strong game to get back on track.

That game came Saturday in a 6-3 win over the West Salem Titans in a non-conference game that was rescheduled from previously in the season.

"We wanted to put 80 minutes together and we went out and showed it today," Head Coach Leroy Sanchez said after the game. "We haven't been able to put two halves together, so this is good for the confidence, good for our league play that we need to finish up."

Entering the game, Sanchez's concerns about the team's communication and ball control seemed the melt away as the Bulldogs piled constant pressure against the Titans from the outset. Woodburn hit paydirt 14 minutes into the game when West Salem was called for a handball in the box, setting up a penalty kick for junior Jesus Rodriguez, who deftly buried the ball in the top left corner of the net.

The goal was called off due to early movement on Woodburn's side, but Rodriguez's second attempt to the right was just as good.

Not content with the one goal, Rodriguez went on to score four more times for a career-high five goals in the victory.

PHIL HAWKINS - Woodburn junior Salvador Perez notched a goal in the 44th minute of the Bulldog'; 6-3 win over West Salem on Saturday.
"That came from the heart," Rodriguez said after the game. "It's not a league game, but a game is a game and you have to play like it's your last game, and that's what I did."

West Salem tied it up on a shot from Connor Young in the 24th minute, but Rodriguez immediately answered with back-to-back goals in a 60-second span, giving the junior forward a hat trick in the first 26 minutes of play.

"I did a hat trick against Central Catholic my freshman year, but that's it," he said.

Rodriguez's fourth goal came three minutes later to make it a 4-1, and Young added another score at the 37 mark to make it 4-2 as both teams entered halftime.

The second half was more of the same for Woodburn, as Salvador Perez notched a goal of his own four minutes into the contest.

The Titans looked to make things interesting after adding a third goal at the 70-minute mark to cut the lead to 5-3, but Rodriguez quickly shut down any thought of a late rally on the ensuing kickoff. As the Bulldogs set up the ball at midfield, Rodriguez noticed the West Salem keeper playing too far away from the goal and took his shot, striking the ball from midfield over the keeper and into the net for his fifth goal to make it a 6-3 game.

"That half field shot was incredible," Sanchez said. "I wasn't even expecting it until I saw it flying. That was huge."

"I've been trying to do that for four games already," Rodriguez said. "I tried against Silverton on Thursday, and I missed, so I wanted to try again. I saw the keeper was really out, so I just shot it."

The final result may prove to be just the panacea that the Bulldogs need to finish the league schedule on a high note. Woodburn's six goals were a season-high, and a measure of revenge against a West Salem team that beat them 3-2 last year.

"There was just a couple games where you need to go down so you can learn and go up," Rodriguez said. "The Hood River game and South Albany — we've had some rough games, but I think after this win, we're going to play really great."

The Bulldogs have a tough road ahead to finish the season. The Mid-Willamette Conference is the strongest it's been in years, featuring four teams ranked inside the top 10, and South Albany looming just outside at No. 11.

Woodburn (7-1-1, 1-0-1 Mid-Willamette) was scheduled to play at Lebanon (0-7-1, 0-2 MWC) on Monday before facing No. 7 Crescent Valley (6-2, 1-1 MWC) on Wednesday.

From there it gets harder.

The No. 2 Corvallis Spartans (8-0-1, 2-0 MWC) have the state's top offense (45 goals) and defense (two goals allowed), and will be looking to dethrone the Bulldogs as the seven-time league champions when the two teams play at Woodburn High School on Oct. 17.

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