Crook County never trails as Endi Mercado scores two goals in Cowboy victory over Estacada

When it comes to boys soccer, Estacada and Crook County are about as evenly matched as possible.

The two teams tied 4-4 in their first meeting of the year. The second meeting, Thursday aLON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - ndi Mercado beats Estacada's goalkeeper for an easy goal. Mercado scored two goals as the Cowboys defeated the Rangers 3-2 for their first league win of the season. Crook County is back in action today as they host the Gladstone Gladiators in a 4 p.m. match.fternoon in Crook County, was nearly as close as the Cowboys managed to eke out a 3-2 victory over the Rangers.

"It was a fun game to win," said Crook County forward Vicente Ramirez. "We all played hard and tried our best."

Crook County never trailed in the match but were unable to put the Rangers away until late in the game.

"The decisions were all there today," Estacada head coach Jack Carroll told his team following the match. "We played some really good soccer out there. We just didn't come away with it today, but I still think we played really well as a team."

As the match started, both teams seemed to be feeling each other out. Both teams had possible early scoring opportunities, but neither squad was able to cash in.

As the match went on, the Cowboys seemed to gain an advantage as they began to put more pressure on the Ranger defense. Still, the game remained a scoreless tie, that is, until the 15th minute, when Crook County finally found a way to score.

After a centering pass, Endi Mercado took the ball near the 18-meter line, beat a pair of Ranger defenders, and found the back of the goal to give the Cowboys a 1-0 lead.

The Cowboys continued to pressure the Rangers, earning several more shots at goal as the half continued, but were unable to find a way to score.

Although Crook County controlled the time of possession in the half, Estacada was able to counterattack effectively, earning a handful of scoring opportunities of their own in the half.

Initially, Crook County goalkeeper Mitchell Bennett was able to turn everything away, however, the Rangers finally broke through with 10:48 remaining in the first half as Avery Kingsford took a rebound off of Bennett and drove it into the back of the goal to tie the match 1-1.

It didn't take Crook County long to answer.

The Cowboys took the ball following the Ranger goal and passed back and forth across the field until they were able to center the ball to Jared Ojeda, who was able to beat the Estacada goalkeeper for the Cowboys' second goal for the LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Crook County defender Alex Freauff plays the ball away from an Estacada defender during the Cowboys' 3-2 victory on Thursday match.

"I did expect a little better," Crook County head coach Jeremy Logan said. "There should have been a higher score today from our guys. I thought that they should have played together a little better and passed the ball a little more."

Logan talked to his team about being unselfish during the half, and the second half Crook County was able to push the ball into the Estacada end for greater periods of time.

Still, it wasn't until midway through the second half that Crook County was able to score again.

Mercado picked up his second goal of the match as he pushed the ball through the Estacada defense, lifted the ball over a diving Estacada keeper, and then hit the left corner of the goal to give Crook County a 3-1 lead.

With the Cowboys continuing to control time of possession, it looked like a two-goal lead would be more than enough.

However, the Rangers responded, earning a corner kick. The Cowboys initially stopped the play, but the Rangers kept control of the ball with Caleb Brotnov finally beating several Crook County defenders with a perfect shot to pull Estacada within one with 12:09 still remaining in the contest.

The goal seemed to fire up the Rangers, as they were able to pressure the Crook County defense for the remainder of the match. However, the Cowboy defense was up to the challenge, as Crook County defenders Alex Freauff and Thomas Milat kept the ball from reaching Bennett.

"Our defense played extremely well," Logan said. "The keeper hardly had to touch the ball at all in the second half. It's a good way to start the second half of the season."

With less than a minute to go, the Cowboys had one more scoring opportunity, however, they pushed the ball just over the top of a wide open goal.

Estacada tried frantically to run the ball down out of bounds, and the officials finally stopped the clock with 31 seconds remaining, giving the Rangers one final push.

Estacada boomed the ball deep up the field but were unable to even get a shot off as time expired.

"We battled to the end," Carroll told his team. "I couldn't have asked for more. We fought all afternoon. We just didn't get a few goals, and that's sports. So we keep our heads up and move on to the next one."

The victory was the first conference win for the Cowboys, who improved to 1-4-1 in Tri-Valley Conference action and 2-5-1 overall.

"It's a good way to start the second half of the league season," Logan said. "We probably could have done a little bit more ground work. Other than that, it's the same thing we have been working on all year long, and that's finishing."

Meanwhile, the Rangers fell to 0-4-2 in conference play and 2-6-2 overall.

Estacada hosts league-leading Madras on Tuesday, while Crook County hosts Corbett. Both games are scheduled for 4 p.m.

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