EUGENE — Caleb Forte deflected in a goal with just over a minute remaining in the contest, giving the North Medford boys soccer team a 1-1 tie against South Eugene on Saturday in a key Southwest Conference showdown.
Forte’s desperation effort came after the South Eugene goalie had secured the ball and attempted to one-touch it to a teammate, but Forte sensed an opportunity to create havoc and jumped with his back turned to keeper. The ball then deflected off Forte’s cleat and slowly dribbled over the scoring line as the keeper lunged for it and knocked it away a moment too late.
“He was like a shark who smelled blood in the water,” North coach Michael Belzberg said of Forte.
Coming into the match, the Black Tornado (6-2-3, 6-1-2 SWC) hoped to leapfrog the Axemen (9-2-1, 8-1-1) for first place in the conference standings and, although a league championship remains mathematically possible, North faces long odds.
“We’re gonna need help,” Belzberg said. “We’ve got our hands full with our last three league opponents. We’re not gonna worry about (South Eugene) anymore.”
South Eugene jumped out to an early lead in the first half on a corner kick that resulted in a scramble-play goal in front of North’s net after an attempted header was deflected.
The Axemen held the edge in possession, but North created several promising chances with pressure and counterattacks, including a pair of breakaway opportunities that weren’t converted.
Defensively for North, keeper Kendal James had several solid saves, Kole Ford and Mauricio Paz were standouts and sophomore Jordan Higuera successfully tackled a tough assignment, marking and holding scoreless South Eugene senior forward Spencer Smith, who burned the Black Tornado for two goals in the teams’ first meeting meeting this season.
“Credit to us for not giving up against a tough opponent on the road,” Belzberg said.
GRANTS PASS 5, SHELDON 0: At Eugene, Grants Pass shut out host Sheldon to pick up a Southwest Conference victory.
With the victory, the Cavemen (6-2-3, 6-1-3 SWC) nudged ahead of North Medford for second place in the conference standings. The Irish (1-10-1, 1-8-1) were held scoreless for the eighth time this season.
MARIST 3, CRATER 0: At Eugene, host Marist blanked Crater to pick up a Midwestern League victory.
Oziel Aguirre, a junior, led the defensive effort for Crater by marking and neutralizing Marist’s top striker, who was unable to get off a shot. Crater’s entire senior core also played well defensively and contributed to a second-half shutout.
The Comets (2-7-1, 0-4 MWL), who have lost six in a row, were held scoreless for the fourth consecutive game. The Spartans (9-3, 5-0) kept pace with idle Ashland (9-1-2, 5-0) for first place in the MWL.
ST. MARY’S 0, OREGON EPISCOPAL 0: Host St. Mary’s controlled most of the tempo and had most of the scoring chances, but Oregon Episcopal was able to bottle up the Crusaders enough to preserve a tie in a nonleague match at U.S. Cellular Community Park.
Preston James and Milan Bobek helped the Crusaders (9-1-1) control play in the midfield, while the defensive backline — Luka Cvijanovic, Andrew Michels, Parker Lam and Marcel Janes — proved to be an impenetrable wall for the Aardvarks (3-4-4).
CASCADE CHRISTIAN 6, LAKEVIEW 1: At Lakeview, Jonathon McCoy turned in a hat trick and assisted on a pair of goals as well, leading Cascade Christian to a District 5 victory.
Zach Booker scored the first two goals and Colby Edwards added the final goal with an assist from Sam Preszler for the Challengers (9-3, 8-3 Dist. 5), who led 4-0 at halftime.
Jeffrey Fairbanks supplied outstanding defense from his sweeper position and keeper Nick Erno made a handful a saves to help hold the Honkers (2-10, 2-8) at bay.
ILLINOIS VALLEY 2, ROGUE RIVER 1: At Cave Junction, Illinois Valley scored the lone goal of the second half to secure a District 5 victory.
After falling behind 1-0 in the 21st minute, Rogue River (4-6-1, 2-6-1) found the equalizer just two minutes later when Garren Decker converted a penalty kick that was set up by Simeon Poston, leading to a 1-1 halftime score.
Rogue River lost a player to a red card in the second half and the Cougars (6-4, 6-4) took advantage in the 65th minute, when Huver Rodriguez scored with an assist from Cody Box, who also scored Illinois Valley’s goal in the first half.
Goalie Tristen Spaeth had several saves in the second half to keep the score close for Rogue River.