By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– After Gervais’ first goal of the game, Western Christian settled in defensively with Rylan Webster coming out of the goal to meet the ball and charging to meet it with Sampson Hess and the back-third disrupting the flow and filling the lanes that the Cougars could send the ball through.
The Pioneer offense, as their defense, met the Gervais physicality nearly having tied the game on a few occasions and had two-goals in the 50th minute, with the Cougar Defense making a stop and Luke Williams sending a shot just over the top crossbar.
For the defense, it was important for them to shutdown the aggressive Gervais style that has helped them win the last two District titles to give them an opportunity on the offensive front with both squads looking to keep up with Dayton on top of the standings.
“Alex (Nicoli), he’s our leader. Alex and Brayden (Hopper) are in charge of us back there. Rylan, he’s the boss, he’s also another boss,” said Hess on the defense and it’s success’ Wednesday afternoon. “It felt good, we felt like we didn’t do as good as we wanted to. Kicking the ball up more, passing it to the forward, more passes and letting our wide wings picking it up, defending the goal.”
Western Christian had two more chances in the 57th minute, no luck. Jayce Roth caused a juggling save in the 61st, still no goal.
Webster had a David Tyree-like football catching save in the 64th to keep the score at 1-0 as payday came in the 65th when Williams dialed up a top-of-the-box high-raising goal to tie the game up.
Keaton Hull had a drive into goal in the 71st minute that was saved by a sliding tackle, but kept up the pressure looking for the lead late in the game, the intensity that they had in the second half was a nice adjustment compare to their slow start in the first half as an offense.
“We started off super slow, that goal (from Williams) obviously helped us bring up the energy and defense played a lot better by getting it up to us,” said Hull. “We didn’t get too many opportunities to score in the first half, but then it started in the second half.”
Webster would make yet another crucial save in the 73rd minute, then another off a corner two minutes later as the two-rivals got heated towards the end with Gervais having just as many chances to break the tie as their host had in the second half.
“They were for sure some big saves like all props to the defense and getting those quick touches out. They were little miss ones that I had to help them out a little, they really kept our backs strong and helped me out a ton,” said the sophomore Webster as the game got more and more heated. “I wasn’t too nervous, I knew they were a little tough, we’re also tough so it was a good battle.”
Williams had a chance for the dagger when Gervais got a yellow leading into the free kick, but it went over the top bar with Hull almost scoring a moment later. The Cougars got another yellow card in the closing moments that led into a red card for the Pioneers in retaliation to what was said following the second Gervais yellow card, but Western Christian had possession of the ball with one more crack at the win.
Williams got a touch and drove to the box from the fans sideline to the goal, shoots when he got a few steps into the box. But it sailed to the right to the groans from the home crowd and sighs of relief from the Gervais fanbase as the game ended in a one-all gridlock.
And as physically as the game was, both teams still have to play each other once more as the second half of league starts with the Cougars at Dayton Friday and Western Christian at Yamhill-Carlton Friday as well as this game served as a good warm-up for the second half of league.
“It was really good because we have a lot of younger guys and they’re out there battling for balls and getting physical with guys who are much bigger and stronger for them, so that was really cool to see,” said Hull on his team. “We can grow because this is one of the best teams in our league and we battled with them and we believed we should have had to so we’ll get them next time.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald