It’s an experiment that has true benefit and merit, but also one with a big hill to climb before permanent implementation throughout...
TALENT — Phoenix's inexperienced boys soccer team has grown up fast.
With a dozen seniors gone from last year's team, Pirates coach Dennis Flenner's roster is essentially the 2011 junior varsity squad.
And it's holding up quite well.
In a battle of Class 4A titans Tuesday, the Pirates rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit to defeat Henley, 2-1, in Skyline Conference play at Hagler-James Park. Entering the day's play, Phoenix was No. 1 in the 4A state power rankings and Henley No. 2.
"They're proving themselves already," said Flenner, whose team is 5-0 in conference and 6-1-1 overall — its tie and loss coming against 6A teams. "We're not very big, but we're quick, and coming from behind against a team like Henley, that's a happy win for us, a good win."
It was Henley's first loss in nine games. The Hornets are 4-1 in conference.
The Hornets' goal came just two minutes before halftime when Trevor Eichelkraut headed in a corner kick.
Phoenix had seven shots in the first half but nothing to show for them.
"We were overpassing," said Flenner. "It gets to the point where you have to squeeze the trigger and get some shots, then our shots were ineffective, so bad choices of shooting."
It wasn't until 27 minutes of the second half elapsed that Phoenix got on the board. Johnny Esqueda took a precision pass from Eli Espana in front of the goal and converted.
A minute later, Espana was taken down with a hard foul in front of the goal and Jose Alegria made good to put the Pirates ahead.
Espana, a junior forward, played very well, said Flenner, who also credited his stifling defense.
NORTH VALLEY 4, HIDDEN VALLEY 3, OT — At Merlin, North Valley's Cody Martin scored the game-winner in the 93rd minute in Skyline Conference play.
Isaiah McLittle forced overtime with a goal in the 78th minute for the Knights (5-3, 2-3 Sky).
Josh Cowell and Trinidad Flores had North Valley's other goals, with assists by Tyler Heath and Martin.
Alan Rojas paced Hidden Valley (2-5-1, 0-5 Sky) with two goals.
GRANTS PASS 1, SOUTH MEDFORD 0 — Nathan Trujillo's goal in the 42nd minute proved to be the game-winner for visiting Grants Pass.
Trujillo scored on an assist from Brian Luther for the Cavemen (7-2, 3-2 SOH), who moved into a tie for second place with South Medford (7-2, 3-2) in the league standings.
ChoCho Sanchez launched a free kick that went off the post with about two minutes to go for the Panthers.
ROSEBURG 4, CRATER 2 — At Central Point, Crater played the final 25 minutes one player short because of double yellow cards, and Roseburg took advantage, scoring its final two goals in that span for the SOH win.
After the Indians took a 2-0 lead, the Comets (0-9, 0-5 SOH) rallied to tie it by halftime.
Jose Uribe gathered a loose ball in front of the goal and scored in the 28th minute, and Jesse Acevedo tallied on a nice solo effort in the 37th as the Comets pulled even.
Roseburg's second-half scores were in the 59th and 72nd minutes.
NORTH MEDFORD 4, ASHLAND 1 — At Ashland, Christian Siordia, Garrett Byrd, Austin Schoenmann and Ryan Hogan each had a goal for undefeated North Medford in nonleague play.
Siordia scored on an assist from Jose Mendoza and Byrd on a pass from Leonardo Alonzo in the first half. Hogan's header on a Siordia cross put the Black Tornado (8-0-1) up 4-0.
Soon after, Diego Harrison netted a goal for Ashland (3-4).
ILLINOIS VALLEY 5, CASCADE CHRISTIAN 1 — Visiting Illinois Valley pulled away with three unanswered goals in the second half of the District 2 match.
Ethan Clark scored two goals for the Cougars (4-4-1, 2-1 Dist. 2). The other tallies were by Boaz Dillon, Keith Lewin and Jeovany Sanchez.
The Challengers (1-7, 0-3) trailed 2-1 at halftime.
ST. MARY'S 6, ROGUE RIVER 0 — Michael Gambee and Tracy Salgado each scored twice and St. Mary's won the District 2 match at U.S. Cellular Community Park.
Avery Kerwin assisted on Gambee's first goal in the ninth minute, then scored himself on a Sam Becker pass in the 26th to give the Crusaders (3-5, 2-0 Dist. 2) a 3-0 halftime lead. In between, Hunter Rothfus scored an unassisted goal.
In the second half, Gambee headed in a throw-in by Rothfus, and Salgado scored on a penalty kick from point-blank range.