Bulldogs return to semifinals for 10th straight year
The Woodburn boys soccer team nearly saw their string of consecutive state semifinal appearances come to a close in the first round of the 4A state playoffs on Wednesday, Nov. 6.
But with a pair of late goals from seniors Rodolfo Campuzano and Riley Menezes, the Bulldogs rallied to beat the North Valley Knights 2-1 at home and went on to defeat the Ontario Tigers 3-0 Saturday's quarterfinals, putting Woodburn on the cusp of the finals for the 10th straight year.
"It's great to be here again," Woodburn head coach Leroy Sanchez said. "This is what these kids want, and this is what the program needs – these big games."
But it almost didn't happen.
Opening the 2019 state playoffs at home last week, the No. 6 Bulldogs (13-2-1, 10-2 Oregon West) faced a North Valley team (8-5-2, 7-3 Skyline) that traveled north eager to pull off an improbable upset.
Despite the Bulldogs controlling the pace, tempo and possession of the game, the Knights were the first to get on the board, scoring off a throw-in play near the Woodburn goal in the first half to go up 1-0.
From there, North Valley went on the defensive. The Knights had given up just 12 goals all season coming into the game and, conceding possession to Woodburn, clogged its side of the field with 10 players throughout the second half.
"It was an interesting game," Sanchez said. "We had quite a bit of possession and I felt we dominated the game for the most part."
But the Knights were buoyed by senior goalkeeper Chris Dillon, who deflected shot after shot from Woodburn's pressing offense.
"Hats off to the keeper who was stopping some pretty good shots on target," Sanchez said. "He was getting to them and doing his job."
North Valley's defense held until the 67th minute when the Bulldogs finally broke through. Advancing the ball deep into opposing territory, Woodburn senior Abraham Vitela was able to draw the defense toward him, passing to an open Campuzano, who finally got a shot past Dillon to tie the game at 1-1.
With the pressure off, Woodburn continued to pound the Knights' defense and hit home six minutes later on a point-blank shot by Menezes to give the Bulldogs the 2-1 lead and the victory.
With a near-loss scare in the books, the Bulldogs made sure to take care of business on the road against No. 3 Ontario (9-1-4, 4-0-2 Greater Oregon) on Saturday.
Woodburn scored all three of its goals in the first half, opening with a penalty kick knocked home by junior Ricardo Hernandez. Senior Adrian Jimenez scored the next two, the first off a header and the second on a turnaround shot into the back of the net.
"We wanted to learn from (North Valley)," Sanchez said. "We went to Ontario — a 425-mile trip — and came out really intense."
Woodburn was scheduled to travel to No. 2 Valley Catholic (13-1-2, 7-0-1 Cowapa) on Tuesday for a chance to play in the 2019 4A State Championship on Friday against either No. 1 Marist (14-0-1) or No. 5 Stayton (14-2).
The Woodburn Bulldogs soccer team has been to the state championship in seven of the past nine seasons, winning titles in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
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