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Cowboys soccer start strong and hold on for 4-3 victory over Redmond Panthers

LON AUSTIN - Mitch Warren smacks a header during the Cowboys' 4-3 victory over Redmond Friday. Warren scored the first goal for the Pokes when he drilled one in from the right side. CCHS led 2-0 at the half.

The Crook County High School boys soccer team had their best week of the season this past week.

"We had to make some hard decisions with some kids who were not showing up for practice," head coach Jonny Oelkers said. "They were some of our better kids and I think it turned the corner for us in morale. Those who were here, they knew they had to play together as a team to win because they couldn't depend on a standout here or there."

The first game after the team's decision, the Cowboys had just nine players as they were blasted 10-0 by homestanding Ridgeview Ravens on Tuesday, March, 30. However, that match seemed to change the entire season for the Cowboys as they picked up their first win of the season Friday with a 4-3 home victory over the Redmond Panthers.

Mitch Warren started the scoring when he blasted a goal from the right side with just over 24 minutes remaining in the first half. Eusevio Zarate scored the Cowboys' second goal with just over eight minutes left in the half to give Crook County a 2-0 lead.

Redmond answered late in the half as Ismael Sanchez put a rebound following a corner kick into the back of the goal. The two teams went into the half with Crook County leading 2-1. However, just seven minutes into the second half, the Cowboys committed a foul inside the penalty box and Redmond's Alfonso Redondo tied the game on a penalty shot.

But the game didn't stay tied for long. First Jesse, then Kevin Sanchez scored goals as the Cowboys took a 4-2 lead. Late in the match, the Panthers scored a final goal, but it was too little too late as Crook County held on for the win.

The Cowboys were home again on Saturday, and once again got off to a great start as Kevin Sanchez scored with 28:19 left in the first half. That's the way the match stayed most of the way until the Buckaroos scored a goal in the second half to tie it at 1-1. Although both teams had additional scoring chances, neither team was able to find the back of the net again as the match finished in a tie.

"I think this will be a completely different program in three years," Oelkers said. "Our seniors have definitely had to put up with a lot with four different coaches in four years. We have just three seniors and one junior. This year we had to institute some rules that kids weren't going to like and then we had to enforce them because kids pushed us to that. So, it was nice that none of the players that we had to deal with were seniors. Those three seniors, Kevin and Jesse Sanchez and Abel Nunez, were willing to toe the line and had a good attitude about the high expectations. They are here supporting their teammates, and they are leading the change in our culture, so there's good things coming out of this year. It's been a tough year, so if we can get through this year with a couple of wins and a tie, it's a pretty good thing."

The five goals the Cowboys scored in their final two matches equal the total number of goals the team scored in their first six matches.

Crook County has at least one match remaining as the Intermountain Conference is holding a league playoff. The playoffs open on Monday with the third-place team in the league playing the sixth-place team while the fourth- and fifth-place teams will also play. The winners will advance to face league leaders Hood River Valley and Ridgeview on Wednesday. The Cowboys were expected to face Pendleton on the road in the opening round.

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