Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
Paul Coughlin knows a soccer adage that says a team trailing at halftime actually has the upper hand.
He doesn't understand it, mind you, but he doesn't dispute it, either. Especially after a 3-2 win over De La Salle North Catholic in the first round of the boys 3A/2A/1A state playoffs Tuesday.
De La Salle took a 2-1 a halftime lead, but the Crusaders got two second-half goals from Hunter Rothfus, in the 63rd and 75th minutes, to secure the victory.
It was the sixth straight win and eighth in nine games for the Crusaders (9-2-2), who visit top-seeded Riverdale in the quarterfinals on Saturday. Riverdale downed Gervais, 6-0, on Tuesday.
Riverdale is the defending state champion. St. Mary's lost in the first round of the playoffs last year but was state runner-up the previous two seasons. The Crusaders defeated Riverdale in the 2010 quarterfinals, 1-0.
De La Salle (6-6-2) got first-half goals from Nahom Haile in the 11th minute and Luis Limon in the 25th to offset a score by the Crusaders' Tracy Salgado in the 19th.
"We came out very strong in the second half," said Coughlin. "We out-possessed them in the first half, and even more so in the second. You build your own good fortune."
Rothfus' first score, the equalizer, came with a creative header with his back to the goal. He took a direct kick from William Lee and flicked it to the far post, "which is very hard to do," said Coughlin.
Twelve minutes later, Bren Catt made a strong run through the defense, then passed back to Rothfus, who tapped it into the net from 8 yards out.
"It was a really great play," said Coughlin. "Bren just had an outstanding game."
He also praised the play of midfielders Avery Kerwin and Bryce Parsons and said defender Jeremy Wu had perhaps his best game of the season.
SOUTH EUGENE 2, SOUTH MEDFORD 0 — At Eugene, South Eugene blanked South Medford in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
Cian Cronin scored for the Axemen (13-1-2) in the 22nd minute. They scored again in the 61st minute when Liam Walsh cashed in on an assist from Kirk Bassett.
The Panthers finished the year 8-5-2 overall. They lose seven seniors: Jeff Turner, Adrian Calvillo, Emanual Alvarez, Jairo Carillo, Herman Menendez, Jose Aguilera and Colt Sauers.
CLEVELAND 4, ASHLAND 0 — At Portland, Ashland couldn't capitalize on several scoring opportunities against Cleveland, which scored right before halftime to take a 2-0 lead and then added two more insurance goals by Francesco Verna-Ketel in the second half of the Class 5A first-round playoff game.
Cleveland senior midfielder Daniel Merchant, one of 13 seniors on the Warriors' roster, tallied the first goal of the game when he headed in a ball that was initially blocked by Ashland keeper Tejas Leier Heyden in the seventh minute.
The Warriors (11-2-3) made it 2-0 right before halftime when Adrien Baures took advantage of a defensive miscue by the Grizzlies (8-6-1).
Verna-Ketel tacked on two more goals in the 68th and 74th minutes to lock up Cleveland's seventh win in its last eight games.
Seniors Andres Garcia, Gabe Young and Nick Chouard played well for the Grizzlies, who had won three straight games and four of their last five.
PHILOMATH 2, PHOENIX 1, OT — Phoenix dominated possession and led 1-0 until the 77th minute in the Class 4A first-round state playoff game at U.S. Cellular.
Phoenix (10-4-1), the Skyline Conference champion, scored 10 minutes into the game on a header by Guadalupe Flores off Eli Espana's assist.
Philomath got the equalizer late in regulation when a corner kick was knocked around in front of the net and Lane Thompson eventually scored.
Five minutes into the first of two 10-minute overtime periods, Trevor Sartnurak took a long through ball on a counter attack and beat Pirate goalkeeper Hector Rocha from about 18 yards out.
In regulation, Phoenix outshot the Warriors, 11-2.
Phoenix senior wing Alex Vela controlled his side of the field and provided some good opportunities in addition to getting off four shots on goal.
Philomath (7-4-1), from the Oregon West Conference, advances to Saturday's quarterfinal round.