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Playing the numbers game

North's domination of Thurston doesn't pay off until the Tornado finally cashes in with late goals

Perhaps more than any other sport, soccer does not reward statistical domination.

And so with less than 20 regulation minutes remaining in Tuesday's Class 4A subtournament playoff match at Hoffbuhr Field, the North Medford boys found themselves trailing Thurston, 1-0, despite a 20-3 shots edge to that point.

With the lead thanks to a 33rd-minute goal from freshman forward Shane Escalera off a corner kick by freshman midfielder Garrett Moore the Colts were content to pack as many as nine players into their own defensive one-third to thwart the Black Tornado.

North, hampered by scoring problems all fall, needed a goal - and quick - or the curtain would close forever on the prep careers of 13 seniors.

Substitute senior forward Leo Cabrera may not have been the Tornado's most likely hero, but he took a pass from senior midfielder Kedric Charlton down the right side and fired a laser toward the far post.

Thurston senior goalkeeper Eric Orton elevated and extended to knock the shot away, but North senior forward Evan McArthur awaited all alone to head home the rebound.

"People kept saying, 'There's plenty of time, don't panic,'" Tornado coach Rich Garcia said. "But after there's about 20 minutes left, you have to have a sense of urgency.

"We had to get some energy, and it came from Leo."

The goal, with 16:30 to play in regulation, was North's first since a 50th-minute tally by McArthur during a 2-0 victory at Roseburg on Oct. 16. The scoreless drought stretched through consecutive 1-0 losses to Ashland and South Medford (shootout) to end the regular season and well into Tuesday's action, lasting more than 260 minutes overall.

As regulation wound down, the Colts missed a golden opportunity to win it. Off a throw-in inside two minutes remaining, Thurston senior forward Matt Dow clanked an open look off the right post.

"We just put that away, it's all over," Colts coach Steve Morelock said.

Less than 27 minutes after busting out of their goal-less funk, the Tornado struck again with the overtime game-winner.

Senior central midfielder Dan Torrey passed to senior forward Zach Taylor on the left side, and Taylor found senior left midfielder Michael Watson in stride inside the Colts' penalty box for a one-time finish.

"It was all Zach," said Watson, who, along with fellow heroes Cabrera and McArthur, didn't even play soccer last fall. "Zach kept his ears open and listened for me to call the ball. ... The goal was wide open."

In another 8:54, the Tornado (8-4-2 overall) had clinched a 2-1 victory over Thurston (7-8) to advance to a first-round match Saturday at Valley League champion and 2000 state runner-up Corvallis.

North, which finished with a 30-5 advantage in shots and, likewise, dominated possession, is just happy to still be kicking after its season was within 17 minutes of ending.

"We were dominating the game," said Tornado senior right fullback Justin Bilodeau, who, in addition to his defensive work, was also instrumental igniting the North attack with runs up the right sideline, as was sophomore fullback Richard Snapp on the left side.

"I was confident the whole time. We had plenty of time. We had so many more shots than them. I knew we'd eventually finish one of them."

Bilodeau, Snapp, senior stopper Samuel Jackson, senior sweeper Ben Clark and sophomore goalkeeper David Oliver didn't face much pressure, but they did continue the Tornado's penchant for tough defense.

Charlton, in both the center and along the right wing, and Torrey were North's controlling forces in the midfield.

And forwards McArthur, Taylor and Cabrera were able to come through when it mattered most.

Garcia knows the Tornado will need much more of the same for Saturday's — p.m. tussle with Corvallis, which defeated North in Medford, 1-0, last fall in the two programs' last meeting.

"It's a challenge," said Garcia, whose 2000 squad advanced to the second round before falling to Lakeridge in a shootout, 1-0. "We have to play our team game, we must be stronger in the box and our forwards have to come up big."

Reach reporter Tim Pyle at 776-4483 or e-mail