Centennial gains revenge with playoff win
6A BOYS SOCCER
CLACKAMAS — Centennial's Jair Diaz Navarro was in the right place at the right time Wednesday night.
Navarro intercepted a clearing pass by Clackamas goalkeeper Hunter Johnson and drove the ball into an open net from 40 yards out in the 47th minute, lifting the Eagles to a 1-0 victory over the previously undefeated Cavaliers in the second round of the boys soccer playoffs.
Centennial played a man short over the final 33:18 after senior defender Noel Perez Beltran drew his second yellow card of the match, but the Eagles (11-5) found a way to hang on and advance to Saturday's quarterfinals to face No. 5-ranked Forest Grove (12-2-2).
"The team that got the first break was going to be the team that won, and we got that first break on the keeper miscue," Eagles coach Todd Saks said. "We put the ball away and that was huge. It feels awesome that we're moving on to the Elite Eight. It's the best thing that's happened to Centennial soccer in a long time. It's pretty cool."
Clackamas generated a handful of scoring chances, including one mad scramble in front of the Centennial net when the ball banged off the crossbar with less than three minutes to play, but the Cavaliers failed to get the ball past Eagles' keeper Dennis Bessarab.
Clackamas had the run of play through the first 20 minutes and then the game evened out as both teams hunkered down on defense, not wanting to take any unnecessary chances.
The turning point came less than seven minutes into the second half when Johnson, the Cavaliers' senior keeper, came out of his goal to play a ball on the right wing of the Centennial attacking zone.
"I thought I heard Tyler Bennett calling for it and I saw him out of the corner of my eye," Johnson said. "I just tried to play a pass out, but he ended up not being there, so the ball ended up going straight to the other player and he had an open net."
Navarro, the senior midfielder, was pleasantly surprised when he saw the ball rolling in his direction.
"I tried to control it to the best of my ability and, you know, I just went for it," Navarro said. "I honestly didn't look at the net. I just went for it, trusted my senses, and it went in."
Saks got a good view of the play with Navarro's shot coming from almost right in front of the Eagles' bench.
"We pressed them and we put the keeper in a position where he had to play the ball with his left foot, which he's not as comfortable with," Saks said. "He gave it right to Jair, who is savvy enough and has played enough soccer that he shot it and put it in the back of the net."
It looked as if the Cavaliers caught a break when Beltran, Centennial's senior defender, drew his second yellow card less than a minute after Navarro's goal, and the Eagles were forced to survived the final half-hour a man down.
But the adversity may have done more to light a fire under Centennial than anything else.
"We just had to stay focused," Eagles senior co-captain Angel Santiago Garcia said. "Losing a man could have really affected us, but staying focused and continued to talk to one another. Teamwork matters, and we got the result that way."
The win avenged a 3-1 loss to the Cavaliers early in the league season.
This story is slated for our Friday, Nov. 8, print edition.
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