Jesuit jolts South Medford with early surge
Determined to not have another season come to an end at Spiegelberg Stadium, Jesuit's boys soccer team would not be denied Saturday in the quarterfinal round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
One year ago, South Medford thwarted Jesuit at every turn and gained a 1-0 victory that propelled the home team into the state championship game.
With the image of that loss burned into their memory, the Crusaders cranked it up a notch from the opening kick and found the back of the net three times in the opening 27 minutes to claim a 3-0 triumph.
"We have a specific way we try to prepare and play and they didn't want to drive home five hours feeling like they did last year, basically," said Jesuit head coach Chris Thurley. "That was one of the worst experiences of their young lives and they just didn't want to go through that again. There was a lot of determination not to make the same mistakes as last year."
The win was the seventh straight for Jesuit — No. 1 in the power rankings — and earned the Crusaders (15-3) a date with defending 6A champion South Salem in Tuesday's semifinals. The Panthers (9-6-2) had won six straight entering Saturday's match and had gone unbeaten in their previous seven matches.
Jesuit's Steven Corbett took the opening tap and built a head of steam before being taken down for a free kick in the first few seconds of the contest. Matt Wise then sent an innocent looking 40-yard free kick from the left side of the field toward the far post that fellow senior Jake Bishop ran onto and perfectly re-directed with a header past South goalkeeper Mitch North.
The whole scenario took just 26 seconds and seemed to leave the young Panthers shell-shocked.
"I'd seen them play three times this season and they tend to come out on fire," said South Medford head coach Dave Kaufman. "But 26 seconds on fire ... I wasn't planning on that."
Neither was North, who tried to protect the back line and had no shot at the 8-yard effort to the opposite post.
"If you want to lose a game, get scored on in the first 30 seconds, that's for sure," said North, one of six sophomores in the starting lineup. "Jesuit's tall and they'll get you off set pieces; that's what they're good at."
The Crusaders' advantage in stature and experience — 10 of their 11 starters are seniors — soon came to the forefront. Jesuit's touches were crisp and with a purpose and the Crusaders were continually able to body South Medford off the ball.
The ball remained deep in Panther territory over the next few minutes and Jesuit capitalized at the 10:03 mark when Wise ran onto a loose ball and blistered a 25-yard shot into the right side of the goal.
The same scenario played out 17 minutes later, with South Medford unable to clear the ball just outside the box. This time, the ball squirted over to an unmarked Bishop, who wasted no time in rocketing a 25-yard shot just inside the upper right corner of the goal for a comfortable 3-0 lead.
"We do work on not passing up shots," said Thurley, whose squad was not bashful about taking aim at North. "Sometimes teams take an extra pass to build in closer, but we didn't. We took the first opportunity to shoot and the ball went in nicely today."
The Crusaders took the 3-0 lead into intermission and kept the pressure on the Panthers in the second half, only to be turned away by North and company. The second-year starter came up with nine saves, most forcing him to leave his feet, and played a vital role in positioning the defense.
"Playing big and having a goalkeeper that can come up big is one of the reasons why we made it this far," said Kaufman, whose team was 24th in the power rankings.
The Panthers struggled to develop a counterattack to Jesuit and never really threatened goalkeeper Michael Milowski.
"I knew going in that scoring was going to be a tough task," said Kaufman, whose team was more effective in the final 40 minutes. "We could've made things interesting had we played more like we did in the second half."
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or e-mail email@example.com