Top-ranked La Salle Prep dismisses Putnam, rolls to 3-1 home win
For 60 minutes, the Putnam Kingsmen held their own against the top-ranked La Salle Prep Falcons on Thursday night.
It was the other 20 minutes that decided the game.
La Salle Prep's Karter Cook, Mizael Harris, and Ethan Shea scored first-half goals, leading the Falcons to a 3-1 victory over the visiting Kingsmen in an emotionally-charged Northwest Oregon Conference boys' soccer game.
Gabe Dyer's goal for Putnam in the 61st minute spoiled La Salle's shutout bid, but it was too little, too late as the Falcons (8-0-1, 2-0 NWOC) extended their winning streak in the series to three games.
"I've seen us play better," Falcons coach Seth Altshuler said. "I'm really happy with the fact that on the night where we're not our best, we're still able to find ways to win games. We keep getting contributions from guys all over the place. Different guys step up, different days.
"For us, a lot of it is just getting our rhythm going. Sometimes it takes us a little bit to get started, and then once we're rolling, we're fine."
The Kingsmen (3-5-1, 1-1) had one too many breakdowns on defense to keep the game close, yet walked away from Thursday's match confident that they can do enough in the five games remaining to secure one of the league's four automatic berths into the Class 5A state playoffs.
"We played 60 minutes of great soccer and 20 minutes when we got three scores against us," Putnam coach Mitch Wing said. "So, that's good soccer, considering they were much better at their passing game than we were.
"We're satisfied with that second half. We play that soccer for the rest of the season, we'll go undefeated just like they will."
Putnam actually had the first quality scoring chance Wednesday's in the first minute of play when Cesar Lopez-Hernandez got around La Salle defender Spencer Schuh inside the 18-yard box on the right side and took a shot that missed wide to the far side.
A minute later, La Salle was on the attack, starting with a shot from Brendan Dexter that went wide left. Then came two corner kicks, another shot by Dexter and one by Kainoa Taylor as the Falcons pressured Putnam's back line of Chris Gonzales, Steve Sanchez, Kobi West, and Dyer.
La Salle broke through in the 17th minute when Shea got around Putnam's last line of defense on the right wing, broke in alone on goal, and beat Kingsmen keeper Jesse Ensley to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead.
"I saw the defender was off balance, so I cut inside, faked out, and shot," Shea said. "Getting the first goal against teams in our conference is always huge. We just took off after that."
Harris, the lone freshman on La Salle's varsity roster, came off the bench and scored the second goal with a low shot from about 25 yards out that Ensley didn't see until the ball was about 5 feet away from going inside the left post in the 31st minute.
Cook then made it 3-0 in the 36th minute when he faked a shot with his right foot, pivoted around a defender and unleashed a left-footed shot from the top of the 18 that also found an opening inside the left post.
"There's not jack I can do about that shot!" Ensley barked at teammates in a fit of frustration. "I don't care where it is. Attack the ball!"
Putnam got on the scoreboard in the second half when Eduardo Guitierra drove down the right wing and crossed the ball into the middle of the 18 for Dyer, who sent a lunging header past Falcons' keeper Quintin Castner with 19:04 remaining.
Still time for a comeback? Perhaps against a lesser opponent, but not against the top-ranked Falcons, who withstood everything the Kingsmen threw at them down the stretch.
"Toward the end, it got a little chaotic," said Dexter, the Falcons' senior co-captain. "We started to playing Putnam's game where it was just chippy and physical, but the guys pulled through and we still came away with the win. That's all that matters.
"This year, we've started coming out with full intensity in the beginning and not waiting. Tonight, we set the tone instead of letting them set it, and then we just played our game and looked to move the ball more instead of trying to force it."
The Kingsmen counted the second half as a small victory -- something to build on as they prepare for Tuesday's 7 p.m. road game against crosstown-rival Milwaukie (5-4, 2-0) at Aldercreek Middle School.
"The second half, we dominated," Wing said. "The ball was in our half 90 percent of the time, so you know what? That's good enough for me. Playing No. 1, and for where we're at, it's okay. We'll be fine."
The Falcons return home Tuesday to face Wilsonville (3-5-2, 1-1) in a 7 p.m. game.
"I've been really happy with our progress, I've been happy with the way we train, and our work ethic is good," Altshuler said. "Yeah, we feel really good about where we're at."