By Jeremy McDonald
KEIZER, Ore.–If the McNary-South Albany third-fourth-place game was any kind of indicator to what was to come in the Championship Game, it was certainly a great appetizer to the main course.
As the Celtics downed the Rebels in PK’s for third-place, McKay and Stayton, two good programs in their respective classifications in 6A and 4A, the Scots challenged the Eagles team in the beginning of the game as Angel Zamora handed McKay a 1-nil lead.
But Stayton, known for their slow-start to games, woke up as they have in the past and pressured back, but couldn’t land a goal against the Scots Freshman Uriel Bravo entering halftime down one.
“I think he did great, I mean he has a beautiful kick,” said McKay Scots Head Coach Ben Lopez on his goalie. “He has a beautiful long kick and that’s what I like. I like that he’s aggressive. Obviously as a typical freshman, they’re some things we need to work with him during our season, but I always, I admire him.
“I mean as a freshman, the first day I looked at him, I was like, ‘whoa, where you came from?’
Bravo continued his success into the second half for McKay with his offense pushing their tempo on the Eagles Mauricio Zamudio who was splitting time with Jose Navarro this summer with the game hanging in the balance. The Scots of McKay looking for the dagger and the Stayton Eagles looking to tie it with the fire and passion increasing like the summertime heat during the midday.
In the final 20 minutes of the game however, it was when the game got really interesting, really intense and become more nail-biting than anyone would’ve thought and wished at it reached it’s apex.
Alex Cramer, who’s entering his senior season with Stayton, describes how far they came and how facing a physical opponent like McKay will help them come September and October.
“It just makes me think back to last summer season because last summer season we didn’t play very well, we were all very young and inexperienced,” Cramer describes. “And coming into this summer season and those first couple of practices and seeing how strong we were and coming to this game and winning, it feels really good.
“It gives us, it gives me at least a good vision of where we are miles ahead of last year and a good team like McKay where they are fast and strong and everything, it makes you realize you are very strong and we have a really good chance this year of beating those North Marion’s and Newport’s and those kinds of team’s.”
The Eagles David Gomez’ had his chances to knot it up at one-apiece, Bravo and McKay’s back-line denied Stayton from doing just that; but an interesting call inside the box allowed the Eagles to tie it at one with a few minutes remaining in regulation.
Wanting to not see it go to overtime, the Scots aggressively answered back as both sides were at each other’s necks by the end of regulation tied at one. It was turning out to be like a Premier League-esc game that continued through the first five minute overtime period and then into the second five minute period.
Being a man-down, the Eagles had to play sound against a Scots team that knows a thing or two about being aggressive playing against the McMinnville’s and the West Salem’s. But, Stayton’s current state of aggression looked like that of against North Marion and Newport entering that last five minute period.
One minute goes by, nothing. Two minutes goes by, the same with both team’s battling for possession of the ball. But it was about three-or-so minutes in when the dagger by way of a soon-to-be-senior in Cramer with the shot that turnout to be the game-winner a few minutes later.
It was a love-hate situation described Cramer, but he knew him and his teammates were at their wits-end at that point of that game.
“It feels amazing because I couldn’t have re-created that, that was a good touch and I was really happy with that,” said Cramer. “But, I mean having to comeback like that, you can’t hold onto that much because you can celebrate that in a couple of minutes when it’s over, you got to keep going especially being a man-down like that. That was rough.
“We were all at our end, if that overtime was ten more minutes we probably would’ve lost it and/or if we would’ve gone to PK’s something like that.”
Following Cramer’s goal, McKay were hauling tail and pushing tempo to try to tie and possibly take it to Penalty Kicks to decide the 4H Championship.
A shot sailed that would’ve tied it seconds later and then a few calls against them deep in Stayton territory with time against them interrupted the flow of McKay’s offense before they could score when the referee blew his whistle to end the game.
As they watched the Eagles celebrate the 2-1 victory, Lopez and the Scots knew they won’t forget this moment as they too focus up on what is to come ahead in August in the 6A level with the Greater Valley Conference as Stayton returns to the 4A level and the Oregon West Conference.
“That’s the beauty about these kids, we learn from our mistakes,” smiled Lopez. “And I know, you know what, that’s what I showed these kids. Regardless if we lose or not, or win, we will always have to keep fighting. We always have to keep our heads up and just learn from it and I know that these kids, their attitude, it’s something.
“They have that character that says, ‘you know what, we’ll bounce back and we’ll put this away’, and they will.”
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Photos By Jeremy McDonald