The true test this spring for a young Centennial High boys soccer team was a Mt. Hood Conference rivalry match against powerhouse Clackamas.
There was a lot of history between the two squads heading into the March 23 showdown, especially on the heels of the 2019 playoffs when the Eagles were able to best the Cavaliers in an overtime thriller.
Clackamas came roaring out of the gates this season, ripping off six consecutive wins. They boasted an experienced squad overflowing with senior talent. On the other side was a Centennial team that lost seven starters from the 2019 squad. The Eagles only had half the usual number of players in tryouts, a week of practice before games began, and young players across the field stepping into new roles.
On paper it seemed like the stage was set for Clackamas to avenge the playoff loss and continue cruising through the conference. But, like they have all spring, the Eagles found a way to win.
"That is when we set the tone for the season," said coach Todd Saks.
Centennial (8-2) won 2-1 after battling back from being down at the half. The win was one of several that came during a slate of matches the Eagles treated more like a prolonged preseason. Many of the players will be returning in the fall, and Centennial implemented a relaxed, free-flowing style to generate confidence among the new faces in the starting lineup this spring.
The star upfront was captain Andrew Martinez. The junior forward was unstoppable for opposing defenses, netting 19 goals in 10 games.
"Andrew is a goal scoring machine," said junior defender Nicholas Mendez.
In several matches Martinez recorded gaudy numbers. He scored five goals against David Douglas, four against Sandy, and had a brace in the showdown with Clackamas.
"My teammates get me the ball where I need it," Martinez said. "The goals I score come from the whole team. My goals are for my coach, my family and my teammates. The best way I can thank them is to keep scoring."
It was a rocky start for Martinez. In the second match, a 3-2 loss against Wells High (formerly Wilson), he was shown a red card, forcing him to miss the following match against Barlow.
"I was frustrated and felt awful because we lost and I couldn't play," Martinez said. "But my team rallied around me and didn't let the loss bring us down."
The Eagles, sans their star striker, won a 1-0 battle against the Bruins, kickstarting a six-game winning streak to vault them atop the conference.
"That loss helped us come back stronger and better," Martinez said.
Centennial came into the spring depleted, after losing so many players from the 2019 squad that made it to the quarterfinals. And with the rushed return, they only had half the normal number of students come out for tryouts.
"We are a young team, a lot of our juniors didn't see many minutes last year," Saks said.
But, despite the Eagles youth being thrown into the fire, with little time for training and a condensed 10-game schedule, they adapted quickly and matched the intensity and quality of play that has come to be expected at Centennial.
"The juniors have played really well, they are leaders on this team," Saks said. "They willed the destiny of this group, and matched the standard of getting to and winning in playoffs."
Up front Martinez drew much of the spotlight, but defensively the Eagles were just as strong, anchored by junior Uriel Ruelas Gonzalez.
"He is one of the strongest centerbacks I have seen on ball — he is confident and smooth," Saks said.
Adding to the defensive depth was Keano Seria, a senior defender who transferred to the program from La Salle Prep in Milwaukie.
In goal, coach Saks rotated between two keepers — Dennis Bessarab, a junior, and Jason Marcus, a sophomore. Because of the shortened season, and as a way to better prep his team for the fall, Saks wanted to get both players opportunities tending net. Often they rotated at halftime, with the other playing in the field.
"It's a new way to see the field, so sometimes it takes a few minutes to find the rhythm," Bessarab said with a laugh.
This spring there was no playoffs. Instead the Eagles played in a "culminating week." The district matched them against Westview Tuesday afternoon, April 6, in a home game at the Eastside Timbers Complex.
"We go into every game thinking it's the most important of the season," Bessarab said. "We never look ahead, the focus is always on the present."
Against Westview the Eagles looked strong, controlling possession and the tempo from the onset. They won 3-0, with two goals from Martinez and another from senior forward Aye Doh Chan.
And, after that final match, and an extended "preseason" run, the Eagles can now start to prepare for the fall.
"We want to make playoffs," Bessarab said.
Boys overall records
Mt. Hood: Clackamas 9-2, Centennial 8-2, Central Catholic 7-1-2, Sandy 5-5-1, David Douglas 4-5-1, Gresham 3-5-2, Reynolds 1-7-2, Barlow 2-4-5.
5A Northwest: Parkrose 3-3-3.
4A Tri-Valley: Estacada 4-3-2.
Girls overall records
Mt. Hood: Clackamas 6-4-1, Centennial 6-4, Central Catholic 6-3-2, Barlow 6-3-1, Sandy 3-6, David Douglas 3-8, Gresham 2-8, Reynolds 0-9.
5A Northwest: Parkrose 1-8,
4A Tri-Valley: Estacada 3-5-3, Corbett 2-6-1.
Jesuit won the showdown with Central Catholic, 3-1, on Tuesday, April 6, finishing the match with dominating games: 25-17, 20-25, 25-9, 25-7.
On Monday, West Linn topped Central Catholic 3-1, by scores of 25-17, 25-14, 24-26, 25-16. The Rams finished 11-2.
Mt. Hood: Central Catholic 11-2, Sandy 9-3, Clackamas 7-4, Barlow 6-6, Reynolds 6-6, Gresham 6-7, David Douglas 3-9, Centennial 1-11.
5A Northwest: Parkrose 8-4.
4A Tri-Valley: Corbett 10-3, Estacada 3-9.
The Barlow boys and Clackamas girls shined during the Mt. Hood cross country district meet Thursday, April 8, hosted by Centennial High School.
In the 5,000-meter boys race, it was a pair of Bruins who took the top spots. Senior Evan Delacruz won the meet with a time of 16:45.60, followed closely by junior teammate Parker Waugh, 16:51.30.
Rounding out the boys' top-five were: junior Cole Lewis, Clackamas, 17:16.20; sophomore Braydon Lee, Barlow, 17:36.20; and junior Luke Lehman, Centennial, 17:40.40.
The Barlow boys won the team competition (32 points) followed by Clackamas (46) and Reynolds (82).
Clackamas junior Jasmine Fletcher won the 5,000-meter girls race in 21:21.70. Following her were: junior Emily Powers, Barlow, 21:32.30; sophomore Alyssa Stumbo, Barlow, 21:36.80; freshman Madeline Pizzuti, Clackamas, 21:58.50; and freshman Zoe Vanderwal, Central Catholic, 22:05.40.
The Clackamas girls won the meet (38) closely followed by Barlow (40) and Central Catholic (45).
Last week's results
Corbett 40, Taft 0
Oregon City-David Douglas; canceled
Sunset 38, Central Catholic 31, OT
Wilsonville 24, Barlow 20
Estacada 28, Lebanon 26
Parkrose 31, McDaniel 26
Mt. Hood: Central Catholic 5-1, Barlow 3-3, Clackamas 3-3, Reynolds 2-2, Sandy 1-3, Gresham 1-3, David Douglas 1-2, Centennial 1-2
5A: Parkrose 2-4
4A: Estacada 5-1
3A: Corbett 2-3
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