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Ashland boys fall in 5A semifinals on PKs

ASHLAND — The actual soccer game was as evenly played as they come. The penalty kick shootout was anything but.

After Ashland and Wilsonville played to a scoreless draw through 80 minutes of regulation and another 20 minutes of overtime, the visiting Wildcats connected on all four of their penalty kicks and received a key save by goalkeeper George Krecklow to pull out a 1-0 victory (4-1 penalty kicks) in the Class 5A boys soccer state semifinals Tuesday under the lights at Walter A. Phillips Field.

The win allowed Wilsonville (12-3-3) to eliminate Ashland from the playoffs for the second year in a row and advance to the state championship game for the third time in the last five years. Wilsonville, which beat Ashland in overtime in a 2018 first-round game on the same field, will face top-seeded and Northwest Oregon Conference rival La Salle Prep in Saturday’s final.

Following two 40-minute halves and 20 minutes of overtime played mostly in the middle third, the two teams were still knotted after each scored on their first PKs — Adam Landy connected for Wilsonville, then Scott Gustafson did the same for Ashland.

Wilsonville went ahead 2-1 on a Joseph Friedman laser and stayed ahead when Noah Aguilar’s shot for Ashland sailed over the crossbar.

Wilsonville’s Sam Blohn slammed home a goal just inside the right post to make it 3-1, and that’s when Krecklow came through with the save that all but clinched the win for the visitors — not once, but twice. His first block of Carson Pindell’s PK was waved off and the referee signalled a retry after Krecklow moved early. But Krecklow used a punch to save the redo, and suddenly the third-seeded Wildcats were one score away from knocking out the second-seeded Grizzlies (11-3-3). Angel Ulloa Romero did the honors, going low and left to beat Ashland keeper Gabe Giancarlo and give the Wildcats another crack at what would be their first state title.

“We had our opportunities and we put the pressure on — a lot of opportunities, so it was a good game,” said Ashland coach Abdiaziz Guled, who was trying to lead the Grizzlies to the state final for the first time since 2008.

“After last year’s battle I knew what we were getting into and we all knew what we were getting into,” said Wilsonville coach Ian Reschke. “If this could happen every year we’d love it, just to at least play this type of a game. ... I feel very fortunate to come out of here with a win; it really could have gone either way.”

The two teams proved to be evenly matched all night, with both generating 10 shots, including four on-goal attempts.

Both came oh so close to winning the game with a goal in regulation, but it was Simon Cropper’s jump-kicking follow of a Davidson Graham shot with about 14 minutes left in regulation that most will remember. The sequence began with a Graham’s right-footed bullet, which Krecklow slapped forward right to Cropper. The junior midfielder kicked the ball over Krecklow’s outstretched hands and the ball seemed destined for the back of the net, but Wilsonville defender Daniel Espinoza, playing the line, scissor-kicked it out in desperation.

The Grizzlies pleaded for the referee to rule that the ball had broken the plane, to no avail.

Even Krecklow couldn’t say for sure.

“I thought it was very close, like questionable — very questionable if it went over or not,” he said. “Oh my gosh, a big sigh of relief. I just saw it go over my head and then I saw Danny’s foot go up.”

Wilsonville had its own golden opportunity to break the tie a few minutes later, but a sensational defensive play by the Grizzlies kept the score knotted.

Guled said Ashland, which suffered its first loss since Sept. 17, has nothing to be ashamed about after putting together one of its best-ever playoff runs.

“Just amazing,” he said. “I was just talking to the kids and they said this was the best season. These kids are great kids and got along fine and they play the game of soccer, but it comes down to this.

“This is the semifinals, so everybody’s looking for the trophy and tonight it just went to those PKs.”

Reach reporter Joe Zavala at 541-776-4469 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.

Kona Makai, (2) gets a header past Matthew Little, (6), of Wilsonville. Photo by Denise Baratta
Ashland's Noah Aguilar gets a header past Jared Perez, (23) of Wilsonville. Photo by Denise Baratta