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Big second half goals from Carrillo, Mercado propel the Huskies over the Outlaws at Canby High School

CANBY, Ore. — In the wind and the rain and on turf at neutral Cougar Stadium, No. 6 North Marion battled No. 11 Sisters in the opening round of the state playoffs. The Huskies ultimately pulled through with a 3-2 result, but it took a real gut check.

Throughout most of the first 17 minutes, North Marion was in control of the action. The Huskies controlled the ball along its backline and midfield, delivering passes up the sideline and over the top for its running strikers. There was more than one opportunity missed for North Marion to get on the board early due to either saves from the Sisters keeper or shooting the ball just wide.

It was in one of Sisters first forays into the attacking third that things turned their way. A North Marion penalty resulted in an Outlaws free kick at the 23:30 mark of the first half. The kick was taken and deflected through the North Marion defense and into the back of the net. Sisters was up 1-0.

The Huskies turned up the intensity after ceding the goal. North Marion junior Jose Jara nearly scored a goal just two minutes later, but the ball was defended out resulting in a corner kick that didn't lead to much more. Junior Alexander Perez nearly got a goal on a free kick in the 18th minute but couldn't connect.

Several more shots and several more chances ultimately led nowhere in the ensuing 15 minutes. It wasn't until the 2:18 mark that North Marion got its first goal. Sophomore Aden Carrillo put his foot on the ball from the 15-yard line and sent it screaming into the net to even things up 1-1.

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - North Marion's Aden Carrillo scored two of the team's three goals in the 3-2 win over Sisters in the 4A opening round.

It wasn't long until Sisters took the lead again. Less than one minute later Sisters junior Tate Kaczmarek found the Outlaws' second goal of the night, officially at the 1:31 mark of the first quarter. When the first half ended, North Marion trailed 2-1.

"At half I just told them that, yes we were possessing the ball, but we weren't doing much with the possession. … That last pass, it just didn't work out, or we'd turn the ball over," North Marion coach Carlos Perez said. "I just told them to go forward, find 1v1, take them, and get rid of the ball on one-twos and give the ball. But I told them to look for opportunities. If you have one, take it. If you miss it, so be it. We have to seize the opportunities that we have."

It wasn't long before they would seize on one of those opportunities.

North Marion's Carrillo once got again got on the board for the Huskies, this time finding an errant ball after a Sisters defender headed a cross-in down in the box and sending it cruising into the net. North Marion was even 2-2.

"When it came to my foot, I saw it come to my left foot in a perfect volley," Carrillo said. "It was just a simple cross in, and I had it right there open."

Twelve minutes later, North Marion scored the deciding goal. The Outlaws committed a penalty in the box and the Huskies were awarded a penalty kick at the 22:16 mark of the second half. North Marion senior defender Leo Mercado took the penalty kick, putting it past the Sisters keeper and heading over to the crowd to pump up the raucous North Marion supporters.

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - North Marion's Leo Mercado (middle) celebrates the team's third goal on the sideline with his teammates.

"Leo scored the goal. He's my captain for a reason, he brought up this team," coach Perez said. "It was a battle from the start. It was one hell of a game. I think it was great that Leo went up to the crowd, tried to motivate these guys, even though it was a battle. But to know that we were up when that penalty hit, it was great."

The Huskies continued to press the action, never giving Sisters a quality look downfield and forcing them onto the back foot. When the horn sounded in Canby, North Marion had earned the 3-2 victory.

North Marion (10-2-3) will go on the road for the quarterfinals, facing off against Phoenix (13-2) on Saturday, Nov. 6. Phoenix is a team the Huskies are familiar with at this point, having faced them the previous two seasons and splitting the matchups with the Pirates. This time around, Carrillo is expecting a challenge but believes his team is up for it.

"We can possess the ball more and go in with 100%, no regrets, no nothing, because when the game at Phoenix comes, it's going to be hard," Carrillo said. "That's when we'll be mentally and physically prepared."

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