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Braden Young delivered the deciding blow as the Saints of Oregon City claimed the 1A Special District 7 championship

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - North Clackamas Christian players surround senior co-captain Braden Young (8) after his shot in the fifth round of the penalty-kick shootout lifted the Saints to a 2-1 win over Crosshill Christian.North Clackamas Christian's Braden Young was so nervous, he could not keep his knees from shaking Saturday night.

The Saints' senior co-captain was preparing to take his shot in the fifth and final round of penalty kicks — a shot to decide the OSAA 1A Special District 7 soccer championship.

Said Young: "I told myself, 'Don't overthink it. Just do like we did in practice. And get it in the back of the net.'"

Young drove a low liner inside the left post and past Crosshill Christian keeper Liam Harris, giving the No. 4-seeded Saints a 4-2 edge in penalty kicks and a 2-1 victory over the defending-champion Eagles at Wilsonville High School.

"That's a soccer game, right there," Young said. "I couldn't ask for anything better. For senior year, that's the best way we could have finished off a season because we had nothing to lose.

"We came into this as the fourth-place team going into a first-place game, so it was really surreal. It was cool."

NCC's Tyler Burch, Luke Nelson, and John Wang converted one penalty kick each and Saints' goalkeeper Hadden Stark stopped two of Crosshill's first four attempts, setting the stage for Young's title-clinching shot.

"That was intense and I'm just so proud of the team for getting this far and then coming out of top," Stark said. "It was just an incredible experience."

Young's PK capped a remarkable run that saw the Saints of Oregon City open league play with consecutive losses to Damascus Christian, Crosshill Christian, and Columbia Christian before winning seven in a row to clinch the fourth and final berth into the championship bracket of the season-ending league tournament.

In the semifinals, Wang scored two goals and Young had one to lead the Saints to a 3-2 victory over top-seeded Damascus Christian, while the No. 2 Eagles edged Columbia Christian 2-1 in another overtime game that was decided by penalty kicks.

In the final, Crosshill's Kruse Whitam scored on a free kick in the fourth minute, driving a shot from about 20 yards out on the left side that curled inside the near post to give the Eagles of Salem a 1-0 lead.

NCC answered less than a minute later when senior co-captain Tyler Burch finished off a transition run with a shot from inside the 18-yard box to pull the Saints into a 1-1 tie.

Burch's goal was followed by 35 minutes of back-and-forth action without any scoring to close out the first half, another 40 minutes of the same in the second half, and, finally, two scoreless, 10-minute overtime periods.

Next came the penalty kicks with NCC shooting first at the West end of the field.

In round one, Wang scored inside the right post and then Crosshill's Matthew Dillon scored inside the left post. Score tied, 1-1.

Round two, Nelson beat Harris high right and then Stark dove to his left to block Owen Spaulding's shot. Saints lead, 2-1.

Round three, NCC's Landon Meuser hit the crossbar and then Crosshill's Caleb Rowland scored inside the left post. Score tied, 2-2.

Round four, Burch went left with a shot that deflected off Harris' hands and into the net and then Stark made another diving save to his left on a shot by Carter Knox. Saints lead, 3-2.

Round five, Young drove the ball inside the left post, shaky knees and all. Saints win, 4-2.

"I've gone left my entire high school career, so I didn't want to change it up," Young said. "We did it in practice on Friday and I didn't see the worth in changing it."

Exactly how long did the Saints work on penalty kicks at Friday's practice?

"It wasn't for too long," Young said. "We maybe did 15 to 20 minutes of PKs with five guys and then said, 'That's what we've got if we go to it. There you go.'"

It helped to have a 6-foot-3 keeper who was good at moving to his left, too.

"I'm just watching what my team can do and trying to block as many PKs as I can, maybe get in their heads before they could get in mine," Hadden said. "I did lean more toward one side of the goal so my better side looked more open. That helped with one of the saves. And the other one … yeah, that was just instincts and I was fast enough to stop it.

"This season has been pretty crazy. There was a point where we would be over the moon just to make it here. It's pretty incredible to make it this far and be able to have this experience."

After a 1-3-1 start to the season, the Saints won their last 10 games to finish 11-3-1.

"It doesn't get better than this. It really doesn't," NCC coach Rick Mudrow said. "These guys played their hearts out. For 2 1/2 hours, they put it all out there and when we did very little substituting, these guys kept digging and kept playing. This is the way a championship game ought to end up.

"These guys are champions. All I can say is they kept building all year long. And they had this in mind. Their goal was, 'Under the lights.' We were happy to play in the semifinals. We were even happier to win in the final."

The Eagles endured only their second loss of the season and finished with a 13-2-1 record.

"It was a good, hard-fought match on both sides," Crosshill coach Brian Stuck said. "Either team deserved to win. Both teams played like champions.

"It was a phenomenal season in terms of team growth and team play. We grew by leaps and bounds this year. We were here last year and squeaked it out in overtime, and this year it was their turn to do that and that's the way God intended it."

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