The La Salle boys soccer team won't have the chance to play for a Class 5A state championship this year.
But the Falcons — who won the 5A state title in 2019 — are getting after it big-time nonetheless in the 2020 season (that's being played in 2021). They proved it again on Thursday, March 25, when they routed Hillsboro 5-0 at Hillsboro High School to win for the fifth time in seven games.
"I think we started off a little bit slow, but after we got our first goal it, started to pick up," said La Salle junior Mizael Harris, who scored one goal and assisted on two others against the Spartans. "We started to play better as a team and started being more organized and passing well and moving well."
"We go into every game with the same mentality of just going hard from the get-go, go as hard as we can," said La Salle senior Kainoa Taylor, who scored twice in the win. "Just making sure that we can, even if we're not scoring, we can cement chances and get into the flow of the game."
With the win — La Salle's fourth straight — the Falcons improved to 5-1-1 for the season and 4-1-0 in Northwest Oregon Conference play. Hillsboro, meanwhile, lost for the second straight time and fell to 1-3-2 overall and 1-3-2 in the NWC.
Despite what appeared to be a one-sided loss, the Spartans knew how well they'd competed in the second half against the talented Falcons.
"After our halftime talk, we came into the (second half) a lot stronger, stronger headed, and we started playing our own game," said Hillsboro junior midfielder and team captain Carlos Geovanni Aguilar. "It was a hard first half, but in the second, we pulled it together and played the rest of the game."
"(Coach Stuart Hoiem) just motivates us to think 'We got this. Keep your head up. Whatever happens, happens. You learn from it,'" said Hillsboro senior forward and captain Fabian Reyna.
While the Spartans were indeed very competitive in the second half, they got knocked back on their heels in the first 40 minutes, with La Salle notching the night's first goal when Harris sent a corner kick from the left side into the Hillsboro penalty box and Taylor knocked it home for a 1-0 lead just 12 minutes, 27 seconds into the contest.
The Falcons kept the pressure on, too, and made it 2-0 with 21:13 left in the half when sophomore Quentin Strange made a steal in the middle of the field and passed off to sophomore Finbar O'Brien for a right-footed goal from 12 yards out.
The Spartans very nearly answered with 12 minutes to go in the half when Reyna crossed the ball toward the goalmouth from the right corner and senior forward Carlos Urenda made a diving header stopped by La Salle junior keeper Parker English.
Strange then boosted his team's lead to 3-0 when he chipped the ball over Hillsboro sophomore keeper Alex Ortiz from the right side with 12:12 to go in the half.
Despite their 3-0 deficit, the Spartans came out strong in the second half, opening with a 12-yard shot by Reyna that forced a leaping save from La Salle junior keeper Elliott Reynolds eight minutes into the half.
The Falcons were whistled for a foul in the penalty box on that play, however, and Reyna stepped up to take a penalty kick. But his shot ricocheted off the crossbar and kept the La Salle lead at 3-0.
Harris then pushed his team's lead to 4-0 when Hillsboro cleared the ball 10 minutes later and Harris collected it 25 yards out of goal, turned and beat Hillsboro sophomore keeper Luis Gutierrez to the left post with 22:12 left in the game.
Finally, Taylor took a pass from Harris 15 yards out of the Hillsboro goal, turned and scored at the right corner for the final 5-0 margin.
"When we start fast, we get more confidence in front of the goal," Taylor said. "And scoring so quickly — we've done that a few other games (and) it just keeps us going."
Despite the setback, Reyna said the Spartans remain confident.
"We always come back after each practice, each game and say that we need to do better," he said. "It's like, 'Let's not lose confidence. We've got to build up the confidence.' Instead of saying, 'Now we're gonna lose next game,' we always say, 'We got the next game. We got the next game.'"
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