Boys soccer: North Marion stays alive in playoff hunt
The play-in round is still yet to come, but for the North Marion boys soccer team, the playoffs are already here.
After an inconsistent fall season in which the Huskies (4-8, 4-5 Oregon West Conference) have seen streaks of brilliant play followed by multi-game stretches of losses, North Marion is playing every game like it's their last.
The Huskies have a tenuous hold on third place in the league standings after a 2-1 victory over Philomath on Oct. 17. That placement comes with the final berth into the play-in round of the postseason, and North Marion needs one more win to secure another trip to the playoffs this year.
Last week's win gave the Huskies the tie-breaker over Philomath (4-6-3, 3-5-1 OWC), which sits just behind North Marion in fourth place.
The first time the two teams played, junior forward Edgar Lopez was unstoppable against the Warriors, scoring all six of his team's goals in a 6-3 victory. The second time around, Philomath did everything they could to make sure Lopez wouldn't beat them again.
"He pulled like three or four guys on him," North Marion head coach Rafael Pelaez said. "Every time the ball was coming to him, there were three guys on him and one waiting."
Fortunately for the Huskies, the plan didn't work.
Lopez may not have scored six goals, but he did net both of North Marion's scores, including the game-winner with less five minutes left that the Huskies desperately needed to maintain their razor thin edge in the playoff race.
Philomath took an initial 1-0 lead, but Lopez answered back on a long goal from outside the box to tie the game at 1-1. The contest stayed there for the remainder of the game, and the Warriors would have been content to come away with a draw, which would have given them a slight edge over the Huskies in the league standings.
As time ticked away in the final minutes of the second half, North Marion sophomore Barsilay Carrillo set up a corner kick that he delivered into a scrum of players inside the Philomath goalkeepers box. The ball caromed to Rene Ramos, who flicked the ball to Lopez for the game-winning shot from five yards out.
North Marion now is scheduled to finish the season at Cascade (4-7, 3-6 OWC), in a game that carries both the weight of the playoff race and an aspect of revenge after the Huskies fell 6-3 the last time the two teams played.
"It was the worst game we've played," Pelaez said. "I always say sometimes you can be a really good team, but one day you'll have a bad game. That was our bad game."
The pressure is on for North Marion to come out strong against Cascade. Philomath finishes the season against the Yamhill-Carlton Tigers (0-13, 0-9 OWC), and is almost assured of a win against a Tigers team that has been outscored 115 to 8 this season.
With a win, North Marion will clinch third place outright in the Oregon West race and move on to the play-in round later this week. A draw would be just as good, giving North Marion a tie for third with Philomath, assuming the Warriors win. North Marion's 2-0 record against Philomath gives the Huskies the league tiebreaker if both teams finish with the same record.
The Huskies host Cascade at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 24.