LINCOLN CITY — Tuesday afternoon’s evenly-matched battle for Lincoln County boys soccer supremacy wasn’t decided until the final moments of play at Taft High School’s sundrenched Voris Field.
Newport High School senior midfielder Aidan Pierias scored in the 79th minute, and senior goalkeeper Alberto Rodriguez stopped a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box in extra time to preserve Newport/Eddyville Charter’s 2-1 non-league defeat of Taft.
In the matchup of the Lincoln County School District’s two boys soccer programs, each of which entered Tuesday’s match undefeated, both coaches applauded the overall level of play, the teams’ competitive spirit and how neither side backed down during the final frantic minutes of the second half.
“I feel like Taft has become our biggest rival because we really don’t have that one team in our league real close by, and we’ve played each other five times in the last six months, so we’re obviously very familiar with each other,” Newport head coach Ollie Richardson said after the Cubs improved to 3-0-0. “All of these games have been one-goal games except for one maybe, so it’s very competitive on both sides. We saw that for sure today.”
Ryan Ulicni, Taft head coach, said the experience his 3A/2A/1A-SD 3 Tigers get from facing competition from a higher classification such as Newport will help them immeasurably down the road when Taft begins league play on Oct. 1.
“We use it as a measuring stick every time,” he said of facing the Cubs. “I set up the first half (of the schedule) to be against all 4A teams so that we can kind of break it down, judge ourselves and figure out what we need to work on and where we need to improve.”
Newport held a slight edge throughout the majority of the opening 40 minutes, focusing much of the action in the Taft defensive end before breaking through in the 16th minute, when Cubs senior midfielder Jonathan Mazo-Amezaga beat Tigers freshman keeper Joshua McCormick for a 1-0 advantage Newport took into intermission.
The Tigers came out refreshed in the second half and played far more aggressively, forcing the action toward the Newport goal with long balls intended for the Tigers’ speedy midfielders. Taft leading scorer Mario Cortes, a junior forward/midfielder, leveled the score in the 61st minute. Though the Tigers continued surging the remainder of the match, Rodriguez held true.
When the action became frantic in the waning stages, Taft committed a foul in its defensive zone. Ulises Gomez-Garcia’s effort on the resulting free kick found a streaking Pierias, who deflected it past McCormick for the eventual game-winning tally.
“I knew it was going to be competitive,” Richardson said. “We’re very evenly matched, and I’ll tell you, Taft is a great playoff 3A team. They’re going to the playoffs this year. I guarantee it.”
But it wasn’t over just yet.
Taft made one last surge to the Newport end during extra time — time added to the clock as a result of previous stoppages in play — and was fouled just beyond the Newport 18-yard box to the right of the goal. But Rodriguez stopped the free kick shot heading just inside the right post, and didn’t yield a rebound shortly before the final whistle sounded.
Richardson said his team was stretched to its limit by the home squad, and he touted the effort it took to claim victory in the yearly intra-county showdown.
“Our kids, they left it all on the field,” he said. “They were gassed.”
The Cubs were scheduled to return to action Thursday in a non-league home match against Tillamook. Taft isn’t scheduled to return to the pitch until its scheduled Sept. 16 match at Seaside.
Newport 1 1 — 2
Taft 0 1 — 1
N — Jonathan Mazo-Amezaga, 16:00
T — Mario Cortes, 61:00
N — Aidan Pierias (Ulises Gomez-Garcia), 80:00
Shots on goal — Newport 5, Taft 3. Saves — Newport 2 (Alberto Rodriguez). Taft 3 (Joshua McCormick). Corner kicks — Newport 3, Taft 5. Fouls — Newport 8, Taft 8.