South Medford took a more aggressive approach in its rivalry game against North Medford in the Southwest Conference boys soccer regular season finale Saturday at South Medford High.
In a match that had a pretty even ebb-and-flow, South Medford used a string of passes that resulted in a goal in the 65th minute en route to a 1-0 victory that clinched second place in the SWC.
The Panthers (8-2-3, 6-2-2 SWC) needed at least a tie to garner runner-up to conference champion South Eugene (12-1-1, 10-0). The Black Tornado (5-7-1, 5-4-1) settled for third. North and South tied 1-1 in its earlier season conference game.
The winning play came on a series of passes beginning in the Panthers half. Ruben Rodriguez pushed the ball into the Black Tornado zone and played the ball wide to Seth Parks, who took it to the end line and delivered an effective cross that Gustavo Lara volleyed into the upper-V from about eight yards away.
“We saw it develop and just hoped it would find the back of the net,” said South Medford coach Claudio Villa. “When teams are so evenly matched, some games do come down to one play.”
After the first 20 minutes, South moved an additional defender to midfield to play a 3-5-2 alignment.
“We wanted to play more offensively,” explained Villa. “That allowed us to possess the ball more in the midfield and create scoring opportunities.”
The Panthers received some excellent play from goalie Jude Pannell. The sophomore had to react quickly to defend a header in the first half and, with the clock winding down in the final moments, Pannell came out of the net to catch a Black Tornado dangerous low corner kick.
“He didn’t just block but possessed the corner kick with his hands,” said Villa. “It was super scary in the last minute with North trying to tie it.”
“(Pannell) is a special player,” added Villa. “He has the instincts to make quick saves. He had a couple of clutch responses.”
Villa also had praise for Panther seniors — Parks in the midfield and defender Calvin Whitley.
North Medford sophomore defender Braden Byrd was complimented for his solid performance by Villa.
“This provides some confidence that any team needs right now,” said Villa. “This is the right time to pick up momentum for the playoffs.”
ROSEBURG 5, GRANTS PASS 3: At Grants Pass, Grants Pass lost for the fifth time in its last six SWC contests in the high-scoring match at Mel Ingram Field.
Roseburg, which beat the Cavemen 8-6 earlier in the year, evened its conference mark a 5-5 and 6-7-1 overall. Grants Pass slipped to 2-8 in league and 2-10-1 on the season.
CHURCHILL 1, ASHLAND 0: At Eugene, Gabe Nitkowski scored off a corner kick in the 53rd minute and Ashland had three near-misses off the post as Churchill handed the Grizzlies their first Midwestern League loss.
Churchill (9-2-2, 5-2 MWL) earned its second straight big win after beating Thurston on Wednesday.
Ashland (7-3-2, 5-1-1) came within inches of scoring several times, as Carson Pindell hit the post twice and Michael Holden once.
Scott Gustafson played solid for Ashland, which hosts its MWL finale against Springfield next Saturday.
EAGLE POINT 2, NORTH EUGENE 0: At Eagle Point, Martin Hernandez beat four defenders to score in the 22nd minute and assisted on the Eagle Point’s second goal to help the Eagles earn their third straight Midwestern League win at Eagle Stadium.
Hernandez stole the ball then dribbled through a host of Highlanders to create his first shot, which he netted from eight yards out for a 1-0 lead. Later, the junior midfielder sent a through ball to Jaydyn Budrow, who connected from 18 yards out in the 54th minute for the final score.
The Eagles (8-2-2, 4-1-2 MWL) have one more league game, next Saturday against Willamette. North Eugene (3-8-2, 1-4-2) has lost four straight.
ST. MARY’S 8, CASCADE CHRISTIAN 0: St. Mary’s senior Luka Cvijanovic tallied five goals to keep the Crusaders unbeaten on the season with a runaway District 5 win at U.S. Cellular Community Park.
The Crusaders (13-0-1, 13-0 Dist. 5) also got two goals from Corin Elmore and a goal from Kaleb Webster-Wharton during the shutout.
Cascade Christian dropped to 10-2-1, overall and in league play.