FORKS — A penalty-kick saving stop by Forks senior goalkeeper Rafael Terrones with four minutes remaining ultimately sealed a 3-2 Spartans’ win over La Center in the Class 2B/1A Southwest District boys soccer semifinals.
Thursday night’s win moved Forks (11-0) on to the district championship game at Seton Catholic (10-1) in Vancouver on Saturday evening. That game was after press deadline.
Spartans head coach Ismael Ramos said his team faced its toughest game yet against the Wildcats.
“They were experienced, they had quite a few juniors and seniors, so a more experienced team from the Trico League, which is always a tougher league than ours top to bottom,” Ramos said.
Forks opened the scoring about 15 minutes in when Tony Flores was awarded a penalty kick and Luis Perez made and converted the penalty kick to the bottom left corner.
La Center scored on a breakaway to tie the game just a few minutes later.
“A little miscommunication on our defense, two guys were going to commit and their guy broke through and scored,” Ramos said.
Forks took a 2-1 lead into halftime after the first of two goals by Juan Pablo Flores.
“The first one he scored on a through ball from Teo Ayala and he hit it low to one of the corners,” Ramos said.
Juan Pablo Flores put the Spartans up 3-1 around the 53rd minute.
“He got a long pass down the field and came up the right side and cut in and the goalie got his hand up, but he hit it past him to the upper middle part of the goal,” Ramos said.
“Juan Pablo stepped up huge. In these games, teams know that Tony is our guy and it opens up opportunities for him.”
La Center cut into the advantage by scoring off a quick free kick that Ramos said caught the Spartans off guard.
Up 3-2, Perez was whistled for a foul in the box, giving the Wildcats a great chance to force overtime.
“Luis Perez was guarding a guy and kind of fell into him so the kid fell and that drew the penalty,” Ramos said. “And they tried to go to the right side and Rafa got both hands on it. The kid who kicked it got the rebound and then kicked it out of bounds.”
Ramos said Forks was able to play out the rest of the clock and earn a trip to the district title game — on Seton Catholic’s home field after originally being set for a neutral venue at Tenino.
“We are used to that field, it’s where we played Toledo-Winlock United in the district championship in 2019,” Ramos said.
Defenders Colton Duncan and Andres Santos also earned praise for their play against La Center.
“Colton Duncan, for sure,” Ramos said. “Their best player No. 9 got one goal but Colton shut him down after that.