The Rams capitalized on a free kick from 35 yards out in the 75th minute of Wednesday's battle of Mt. Hood Conference co-leaders

REVIEW/NEWS PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Oregon City's Toni Bautista-Carrera drives past Central Catholic's Junior Pulido (5) during Wenesday's Mt. Hood Conference boys' soccer match at Pioneer Memorial Stadium.Oregon City dominated every phase of Wednesday night's Mt. Hood Conference boys' soccer match against Central Catholic expect the one that mattered most -- goal scoring.

Central Catholic's Reece Cole scored the game's only goal off Leo Schulak Poliakoff's free kicks from 35 yards out in the 75th minute, lifting the Rams to a 1-0 road win over the Pioneers as the league co-leaders clashed at Oregon City's Pioneer Memorial Stadium.

Cole's goal came on one of the few quality scoring chances Central Catholic had on a night when the Rams spent the majority of the game playing defense.

The Rams (7-2-3, 4-1-0 Mt. Hood) took over sole possession of first place, a half-game ahead of Centennial with two games remaining in the regular season.

"It wasn't a pretty game, especially in the midfield," said Cole, the Rams' senior defender. "It was kind of scrappy and we didn't have a lot of possession, but we played good defense and we've always been good on set pieces all year.

"We stayed patient, we stayed composed, and we knew we were going to get one."

Rams coach Jimmy Weber said his team was fortunate to walk away from Wednesday's road game with a win.

"I thought Oregon City dominated the midfield, I think they played better than us, and then we got an opportunity and we capitalized," Weber said. "That was the game in a nutshell. Oregon City deserved it. We got lucky this game."

Oregon City (5-6-1, 3-2-0), which had scored multiple goals in six of its previous nine matches, was held scoreless for the second time in the league and slipped to third place, a full game behind Central Catholic.

"Disappointing," Pioneers coach Josh Cameron said. "I feel for our boys. I thought we controlled the game in terms of possession. Central Catholic is an experienced team, they're solid every year, and they put away the chance that they had like a good team should."

Oregon City's Anthony Avellandeda, Brandon Bautista, Toni Bautista-Carrera, Ashton Johnson, and Alejando Lopez connected well through the midfield, and mounted enough pressure to generate six corner kicks and an equal number of free kicks inside of 35 yards.

Central Catholic keeper Lach Davidson got to everything the Pioneers shot on frame, but the difference in the game was the play of center back Liam Anderson, who anchored the Rams' back line with help from Evan du Vivier, Ultan Heenan-Roberts, Tajo Fisher and Kai Mills.

"Liam kept us in the game, defensively," Weber said. "Oregon City had a lot of balls in the mixer and they put a lot of balls in the 18, and it seemed like Liam won a lot of those back there. Liam was the 'Man of the Match' for me."

With six minutes left, Oregon City got caught pushing forward a little too much as Central Catholic countered on a transition rush and the Pioneers were forced to foul to prevent a potential partial breakaway.

Poliakoff, the Rams' speedy sophomore, took the free kick from just in front of the Central Catholic bench and drove the ball toward the far post where Cole rushed in and banged it past Pioneers' keeper Nathan Peterson with 5:21 remaining.

"Honestly, I don't know how to describe it, it happened so fast," Cole said. "It was a great ball in, and it just whipped in over the top. I got a lucky bounce, straight to me, and I just put it away. It happened just like that.

"We mix it up on free kicks. We go near post, far post, center, but Leo can do all of it. I saw that there wasn't anyone going to the far post, and I figured I'd take it up."

Oregon City's defense collapsed toward the middle of the 18-yard box, not expecting Poliakoff's free kick to carry as far as it did.

"I didn't see the ball deflect off of somebody on the wall, but I saw a guy running up to a back post," Cameron said. "I don't know if we left him unmarked. Either way, it was a wide-open goal, nobody on him, so … just unlucky for us."

Cameron expects the Pioneers to bounce back and close out the regular season on a high note this week with games Tuesday at Reynolds and Thursday at home against Centennial.

"Overall, I feel good about the game," Cameron said. "We were just unlucky with the goal and we weren't sharp enough up top, but it was something to build on, for sure.

"We did well through the central part of the field, but up top. We were lacking that quick, little one-two, and then the final touch. It's something to work on, and something that I think the boys can try to use as motivation going into the end of the season."

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