Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
TALENT — Forward Christian Siordia's last-minute goal lifted the North Medford boys soccer team to a 2-1 nonconference victory over a feisty and talented Phoenix squad at Hagler-James Field Tuesday.
Siordia, a senior, came up big for the first time in the 29th minute by beating the defense with a shifty move in front of the Phoenix goal before passing off to senior forward Garrett Byrd, who netted the match's first goal from a few yards away.
"I told the team it was going to be a tough battle ... and it was," said North Medford head coach Michael Belzberg. "We're responding very well to everything as a team ... it's been like this all season, a really good team effort."
Black Tornado sophomore goalkeeper Eric Benitez had his work cut out for him. He smothered five of the Pirates' 10 shots on goal for saves and kept North Medford (3-0-2) on point with loud-and-clear orders for teammates throughout play.
"Our focus was just to come out and play physical," said Byrd, a 6-foot, 190-pounder who is quick on his feet. "They are a good team, they always are ... we played well."
Last year, Phoenix, a Class 4A school, and North Medford, a 6A school, tied 0-0.
"We're not disappointed because we pretty much played well enough to win," said Phoenix senior midfielder Alex Vela, whose team out-shot the Black Tornado. "We know we have a tough schedule before league starts, but we're not afraid of 6A schools because we know we have the capability to beat them."
"We out-shot them, we just didn't score ... we need to finish," said Vela, who scored the Pirates' lone goal in the 48th minute.
Vela controlled a corner kick from senior striker John Esqueda and booted it about 25 yards into the far side of the goal, bouncing it off the inside of the front post.
"I'm really happy with my boys," said Phoenix head coach Dennis Flenner. "We out-possessed them, out-played them, but that's the game ... it's just a tough loss."
Senior goalkeeper Hector Rocha had two saves for the Pirates (0-2-1), but the Black Tornado only managed four shots on goal during the 80 minutes of play.
In its final match before beginning league play, Phoenix faces South Medford at Hagler-James Field at 6 p.m. Friday.
North Medford hosts Crater at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at email@example.com.