By Jeremy McDonald
MEDFORD, Ore.– It’s weird to think the number 13-seed could be here, celebrating their second upset against a highly touted team, but improbable became probable Tuesday night.
North Marion, coming off a week from their first upset win over number-four La Grande, had just outdone themselves when they brought home quiet possibly the upset of the OSAA soccer postseason when they took down the top-seeded Phoenix 1-0 to advance to the State Title Game this Saturday.
After the game, tears and emotion were flowing from them. But it wasn’t for sadness, but quite the contrary. This senior class were freshman when they lost to Sisters in the Semi-Finals the last time they were in this position in 2015 and they wanted another chance to redeemed themselves before leaving.
And they sure did.
“It means a lot thinking about it, we came in from a tough season last year. We were a young team, we didn’t manage to get to the playoffs. We had a play-in game, but lost in PKs,” said Edgar Lopez. “We worked all year around, making each other better. 100-percent of the time playing outside of the school and this is the result.
“We worked, we learned to play off each other and we did well.”
With the foothills in the east and the sun setting in the west, the Huskies Faithful made the voyage down as they made their presence known in the stands down the way from their Pirate counterparts throughout the game.
On the pitch, both teams gave their fanbases things to cheer about and things to ‘ooohh’ about as the cheering drives resulted in shots being saved or missing its mark.
North Marion’s defense made sure that Phoenix’s offense was off the board waiting for their offense to strike themselves.
“Rene (Seguar-Ramos) is exceptional and he leads the defense and we have Cainan (Sanchez) and Isaias (Zurita) and they all work together very well sending balls up the field as well as defending what is most important…the goal,” said Goalie Colby Gianella.
“Our defense, just working as a team and trying to lead them to the outside and knowing that 15 is a good player and we knew that he would try to dribble across and wait for it to get outside and just taking our chances and following,” adds Seguar-Ramos with regulation coming to an end.
With 15 minutes left, there still hasn’t been a score and it looked as if the game would have gone into some extra time with overtime before Andres Agabo struck gold on a perfectly placed ball as Agabo took full advantage of from 18-yards out to hand North Marion a 1-0 lead with time entering its final 10 minutes.
“They keep telling me to take shots and I wasn’t taking shots so I took that one for the team,” said Agabo on the shot that led to the goal. “This is the furthest we’ve gone since my freshman year when we lost to Sisters. I was freshman and we went to the Semi-Finals, losing versus Sisters. I can’t describe, this feels so good.”
Then it came down to defense and making sure that the Phoenix didn’t slip one by to force overtime.
The Huskies succeeded. No such goal came in as the Pirates scraped and fought in to try to find one in the back of the net around the stout defense North Marion threw their way.
When the final whistle blew, Francisco Hernandez collapsed on the ground with emotion. Lopez walked around after thanking their fans who made the trip down fighting back tears knowing that they finally got back to the 4A State Title game for the first time since 2014.
“It’s talent, hard work and heart. We play with heart the last 10 minutes when we got the goal, they came attacking us. It was all heart going after the ball, getting the ball out of our-third trying to get the time down and it happened,” said Lopez.
But as they have been Giant Killers, they have one last challenge ahead of them and it will probably be their hardest against an all-too-familiar foe:
The Bulldogs beat Madras 6-0 Tuesday, but as much as tough as this next task is, the Huskies too walk into the game different from their August 30 game. Winners in nine of their last 11 games North Marion too is walking in with some momentum as Woodburn is.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald