TIGARD — In order to win the Three Rivers League championship, the Tigard High School boys soccer team knew just what it had to do — beat Lakeridge.
Through one half of play, that needed victory was anything but wrapped up.
But, in the second half, the Tigers left no doubt who was going to win the match — and who was going to reign as league champs.
Tigard, after leading the Pacers 1-0 at halftime, scored six unanswered goals in the second half to get a 7-0 victory in a Three Rivers League finale played under frigid conditions at Tigard High School.
"It was a great night," said Tigard junior midfielder Rasheed Tarhuni, who scored four second-half goals. "We started off slow in the first half, coming away with a 1-0 lead, but, just the motivation and the talk we had at the half, we came out in the second half with a chip on our back, and got it done."
"It's big," said Tigard senior midfield Trevor Smith, who had a goal and two assists in the second half. "It puts us in a good mental spot going in the playoffs. It keeps us confident, so it's big."
With the loss, Lakeridge finished TRL play with a 2-9-1 record (3-10-1 overall), putting the Pacers in sixth place in the final league standings. Tigard improved to 10-1-1 in TRL matches (11-2-1 overall), putting the Tigers alone in first place in the final league standings, just ahead of second-place Tualatin, which went 10-2 in league matches.
"People have doubted us and said that that we can't win league," Tarhuni said. "That we can't win it back-to-back. But we showed them. We came out here in the second half and we put six goals on them."
The Tigard defense, including senior Jared Debban, sophomore Brandon Mendez, junior Jack Hallam, senior Sergio Islas and junior Nicholas Leinberger, among others, played strong from the start, limiting Lakeridge to just first-half shot on goal, which was saved by Tigard senior goalkeeper Jackson Cleaver.
But, as time was running down in the half, the teams were locked up in a scoreless tie. But Tarhuni did something to change that.
Driving by the end line on the right side of the field, Tarhuni fired a cross toward the goal mouth. A Lakeridge defender got a foot up, looking to knock the ball away, but, instead, knocked the ball into the back of the net for an own goal, which gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead with 2 minutes and 11 seconds left to play in the first half.
But, in the second half, Tigard scored plenty of goals of its own.
Tarhuni started the second-half scoring spree, scoring from 10 yards out off a give-and-go pass from Smith, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead with 37:44 left to play in the match. Four minutes later, Debban scored from six yards out, putting his shot inside the right post of the Lakeridge goal, coming off another assist by Smith, making the score 3-0.
Tarhuni then scored back-to-back goals, the first coming off a long through pass from senior Jacob Theodoroff, giving the Tigers a 5-0 cushion with 22:52 remaining to play.
Smith then got into the scoring act, converting a corner kick shot from the right side, with the ball bending inside the left post of the Pacer goal, upping the margin to 6-0 with 8:27 left to play.
"I knew there was wind, which was going to help me out, so I tried it," Smith said with a smile.
Tarhuni finished off the scoring, connecting on a shot from 30 yards out with 1:37 left to play, giving him four goals for the second half, and wrapping up the scoring in the Tigers' 7-0 victory.
"It was a great half," Tarhuni said. "I couldn't have done it without the boys on my team. They got me the passes I needed, and I found the net. It was just a good night."
"We just kept pushing," Smith said of the Tigers' second-half performance. "We knew we needed to score more goals, and it finally came. We just wanted to get this win so we could go into the playoffs with confidence. We really want to do well this year."
For the match, Tigard had 13 shots on goal and six corner kicks. Lakeridge had two shots on goal and two corner kicks.
The Tigers will next be in action on Saturday, when they host Grants Pass in a Class 6A state playoff match to be held at Tigard High School. The Tigers are hoping that Saturday's contest is the start of a long postseason trek.
"It (The Three Rivers League title) means the world to us, but we have a bigger goal this year, that's the state championship," Tarhuni said. "We're going to take it one match at a time. Family comes first — teamwork, chemistry and it's going to take a grind."
"We really have to focus, and keep our training habits high," Smith said. "We just want to do better than we did last year (when the Tigers got to the second round of the state playoffs), at least for me."
If Tigard wins its first-round match on Saturday, then it will either host Mountainside, or play at Grant, in a Class 6A state playoff second-round match on Wednesday.
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