FORKS — Forks’ breakthrough boys soccer season came to a sudden conclusion in a 3-2 overtime loss to Columbia (White Salmon) in the Southwest District 4 Tournament on Tuesday at Spartan Stadium.
Up 2-1 and five minutes away from a regulation victory, the Spartans conceded the tying goal on a header by the Bruins’ Jose Eudave off of a corner kick by Cesar Isordia.
Columbia’s aptly named Finn Coffin delivered the winner in sudden-death overtime, a long-distance goal from the left side of the 18-yard box to the near post just 1:23 into extra time.
The score brought a swift end to a promising season for the Spartans who finished 10-2-1 overall. Forks doubled their 2017 win total with 11 underclassmen on the 17-player roster, competing for an Evergreen League 1A title for the first time in a decade and drawing a large, enthusiastic home crowd to support the squad.
“So positive,” Spartans coach Joe Morton said when asked how he viewed his team’s season. ”This group of boys, next year we will take these guys. I’m picking up more guys who play club soccer and we will build on this progress. I have a real young team and I expect big things to happen. Much bigger and much better.”
Sophomore Hugo Sandoval who scored both Forks goals on penalty kicks, one coming just before halftime, the other in the 67th minute to take a 2-1 lead, mentioned how his team grew both in skill and in playing together this season.
“Last year it was really hard for us and we struggled because we weren’t a passing team,” Sandoval said. “But now we pass so much, we look for each other.”
Sandoval said going forward Forks can work on developing its own identity as a team.
“The first half was pretty rough because we were down [emotionally] because they scored early,” Sandoval said. “How we are as a team is we don’t have our own level — we always play up to the level [of the competition] or down to the level [of the competition].”
Forks, a smaller team built on speed, had trouble matching up with the larger Bruins all game.
Morton said the Spartans were stuck playing Columbia’s style of play for much of the game.
“Yeah, until part way through the first half when we woke up and got some things going,” Morton said.
Forks wasn’t able to build much attack offensively, having to play a dump-and-chase style for fleet-footed freshman forward Tony Hernandez-Flores.
“If our other striker [senior Samuel Gomez] is here, they play well together and we could have passed around their defenders and been more effective offensively,” Morton said. Gomez injured his elbow at practice a few weeks back and the injury was severe enough to lose the talented scorer for the rest of the season.
Sandoval tied the game at 1-all when scored his first penalty kick in stoppage time just before halftime. The penalty kick opportunity came about when Hernandez-Flores was taken down on a scoring attempt.
The sophomore celebrated by pulling up his jersey to reveal a T-shirt that said “This is for my brother.” Sandoval said it was dedicated to his brother who died as a baby.
Columbia threatened to reclaim the lead early and often in the second half but were denied by the Spartans’ sophomore goalkeeper Gabe Terrones.
Terrones was whistled for taking down a Bruins player in the goal box drawing a Columbia penalty kick — but Columbia missed the attempt wide left.
Terrones then came out of the goal box to cover up a Bruins breakaway attempt and made another save minutes later on a nervy play in front of the goal line.
“He’s smoking in goal,” Morton said. He should end up playing somewhere [in college]. The coach at PC [Jake Hughes] knows who he is.”
Sandoval put Forks up 2-1 after freshman midfielder Luis Perez drew a penalty kick when he was hammered to the turf by Celaya-Aldana, but the Spartans couldn’t squeeze Columbia defensively and the Bruins broke through twice in quick succession.
“They came out and found something in the second half and got us,” Morton said. “Gabriel kept us in it, but they got a couple.”
Despite the defeat, Forks’ potential shown through — even to its opponents. Sandoval was complimented by Columbia senior defender Fernando Celaya-Aldana during a postgame interview.
“Bro, next year you guys are going to be really good,” Celaya-Aldana told Sandoval. “For sure next year you’ll make it far.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]