La Salle Prep strikes twice in closing 10 minutes, downs Corvallis 3-1
La Salle Prep's boys soccer team played a waiting game against Corvallis on Saturday — a risky move early, but one that paid huge dividends late.
La Salle's Luke Strange scored the go-ahead goal in the 71st minute and then scored again on a penalty kick six minutes later, lifting the top-ranked Falcons to a 3-1 victory over the defending state champion Spartans in Saturday's OSAA Class 5A quarterfinal at La Salle Prep in Milwaukie.
Karter Cook scored La Salle's first goal with an assist from Mizael Harris with two seconds left in the first half, helping propel the Falcons (15-0-1) into the semifinals for the fourth season in a row to face Northwest Oregon Conference rival Hillsboro at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at La Salle.
"There were a lot of little things done right tonight and guys stepped up," Falcons coach Seth Altshuler said. "I am so proud of our group for being so resilient. It's hard to do this year in and year out and stay focused long enough to put yourself in this position."
The Spartans, who defeated La Salle in last year's championship final, saw their bid to win back-to-back titles dashed as they finished 9-7, which included four early-season forfeits for using an ineligible player.
"It was about what I expected this game to be," Corvallis coach Chad Foley said. "It was a really good, hard-fought game. Take away that PK at the end and it was just a tight game.
"Seth does a great job with his program and we take a lot of pride in how we run ours. I've very humbled to be a part of this moment and a part of this game."
The two teams had clashed earlier this season in a Sept. 17 match in Corvallis where the Falcons prevailed 4-1, using the same defensive-minded, wait-and-pounce strategy as the one they employed in Saturday's quarterfinal.
A little conservative? By most La Salle standards, perhaps, but the strategy worked so well in Corvallis that the Falcons figured it would be a mistake not to utilize it again.
"That's a Corvallis team where we see their system and then we see what works within our own system," Altshuler said. "If we high press, we get spread out and they start to cut us up. So, we decided to sit back a little bit, allow them the have some possession, and force them to make the kinds of passes that are dangerous.
"So, yeah, it was all by design. I can't say it worked perfectly, but we were very, very happy with how our boys executed."
Corvallis struck first when Edgar Monroy drove a rising shot from about 30 yards out on the right wing that beat Falcons' keeper Quintin Castner to the far side in the 34th minute to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead.
La Salle answered in the waning seconds of the first half when Harris sent a free kick from about 25 yards out on the right wing toward the top of the far post. Corvallis keeper Max Kelly jumped and got his hands on the fall, but let it fall behind him where Cook was waiting to knock it home.
"Mizael saw me and I was like, 'Play it over, real quick,'" Cook said. "He played it over, the keeper went up, dropped it, and it fell down right in front of me. I was kind of nervous because that could make or break the game, but I just focused and put it in the back of the net."
The game remained deadlocked until the 71st minute when Corvallis broke up a La Salle counterattack by kicking the ball out of bounds on the right side about 15 yards from the end line.
Logan Warner's thrown-in sailed into the middle of the 18-yard box where Noa Taylor used his head to flick the ball on to Strange, who buried the shot from 12 yards out inside the left post.
"I just found myself in a little pocket of space and there was no one really tight on me," Strange said. "I found a first touch and looked at the bottom corner and just smashed it home.
"It felt so good, going right to the ball and seeing it go in the net was the best feeling."
Said Altshuler: "Right place, right time. To have a guy like Noa in the air and a guy like Luke who is floating around behind, that's a dangerous thing to try and mark."
With 2:30 remaining, Strange hand a breakaway and got tackled from behind by Corvallis' defender. After a lengthy discussion among three of the four officials, Strange was awarded a penalty kick and scored to put the game out of reach.
"We knew Corvallis' game plan was to play around in the back until they could try to find a little opening," Strange said. "We knew if we just stayed in front of them and pressed at the right times when they got a little high up, they'd cough the ball up and that's when we could counterattack.
"That was our game plan, we stuck to it, and thankfully it worked out for us."
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