It wasn't the state playoffs.
And it wasn't a state championship.
What it was, however, was one more game between two playoff-quality teams — the La Salle and Lake Oswego boys soccer teams. And this year — in this one-of-a-kind high school sports year shortened by Oregon's response to the COVID-19 pandemic — it had to be enough.
In the end, the Falcons — the reigning Class 5A state champions — scored three times in the first half against Lake Oswego, then held on down the stretch to win 3-2 in non-league action at Lake Oswego High School.
"It was a good one — a little shaky at the end there — but it's good to get it done for the last game senior year," La Salle senior defender Pel Marks-Bienen said. "It's a good way to end it."
"It was a little bit shaky at the end, but we grinded it out and got the win," said junior midfielder Mizael Harris, who scored the game-winning goal midway through the first half. "We had a really good season and we finished out strong with (wins) against some good teams."
With the win, the Falcons' sixth in their final eight games, La Salle ended its season with a 5-1-1 mark in the Northwest Oregon Conference and a 7-2-2 overall mark. Lake Oswego, meanwhile, finished as the best team in the Three Rivers League at 4-0-2 and with a 4-4-2 overall record.
After getting knocked back on their heels in the first half, the Lakers were determined to battle in the final 40 minutes.
"I think a lot of the credit goes to our coaches," said Lake Oswego senior Eric Seaman. "That's what our halftime talk was all about. 'It's easy to score three goals in one half. They did it and we can do it as well. Just put in the effort and the goals will come.'"
"We focused on supporting the upper players when they got the ball, because in the first half we didn't really have that," said LO senior Carson Campbell, who scored his team's second goal against La Salle. "It was that, and just getting everyone forward and just playing fast."
After some solid back-and-forth at the start of the game, the Falcons broke on top when La Salle senior forward Kainoa Taylor collected a loose ball 12 yards out of the Laker goal, turned and hit a low shot that ricocheted off the right post and into the net for a 1-0 lead just 6 minutes, 17 seconds into the game.
The Falcons were back in goal with 19:17 remaining in the half when La Salle freshman Kevin Serrano-Maldonado tracked down a deflected pass near the top of the Lake Oswego penalty box, then hit a right-footed shot to the upper corner of the goal for a 2-0 lead.
The Lakers responded with shots from both senior Tyler Smith and senior Roman Sinkus in the next three minutes, but it was La Salle that scored next. Just moments after Sinkus' attempt, Harris took a through ball on the right edge of the LO goal and scored from seven yards out to give his team a 3-0 lead that held up until halftime.
The Lakers, to their great credit, did not fold. Instead, they picked up their defense, sped up their play and got on the scoreboard 10:48 into the second half. There, LO senior Mohnish Judge sent a long lead pass to junior Regan Henshaw at the right post and he angled a low shot just past the La Salle keeper to cut his team's deficit to 3-1.
While neither team scored again for more than 20 minutes, the Lakers got shots from Campbell, junior Colin Branam and Seaman, as well as a pair of corner kicks with 10 minutes left to play.
Then, with 7:34 remaining on the clock, Laker senior Dre Benavente crossed the ball toward the Falcons' goal from the left corner and Campbell knocked it home in a crowd near the right post to cut La Salle's lead to 3-2.
The Lakers kept the heat on in the final minutes, too, but failed to get the equalizer and the Falcons escaped with the 3-2 victory.
"We probably could have put another one away," Campbell said. "I'm just surprised we actually didn't."
"They had a pretty good second half, obviously, with two goals against us," Harris said. "But luckily, they ran out of time and we got the win."
Regardless of the final score, both teams celebrated the chance to be back on the field for the final time in 2021.
"I mean, I'm just happy we got to get out on the field again," Seaman said. "No matter the circumstances — having to wear masks, all that stuff — you just got to push through it and get to play soccer. I mean, that's all there is to it."
"We played three 6A teams this year (and) beat two of them … We can hang with anyone in the league," Marks-Bienen said. "One loss against those top teams is not bad. It's a great way to finish the season."
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