CAMAS -- The stakes will get higher on Saturday, when a loss will mean an end to the season.
But for the Camas boys soccer team Wednesday's 3-1 win over Union at Doc Harris Stadium was plenty significant.
"It reassures our spot" atop the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League, Camas junior Nate Beasley said after helping the Papermakers earn district championship medals with a goal and an assist.
It was the sixth win in a row for the Papermakers (13-4) dating to a 1-0 loss to the Titans three weeks ago. In addition to validating the regular-season league title for Camas, the result gives the league's No. 1 seed into Saturday's bi-district playoff round. Union will be the No. 2 seed. Both will shoot for state tournament berths on Saturday at McKenzie Stadium, with Camas playing at 1 p.m. and Union at 3 p.m.
Camas and Union split their two regular-season matches, and Wednesday's game started as a high-paced contest with early scoring chances for both teams. The Papermakers made one count in the seventh minute when Houston Taie got his head on a long Lucas Ulmer throw-in and directed the ball inside the post.
"I just read where he was going to throw it," Taie said. "There was somebody on my back but it just came straight onto my head. It was a good throw."
Union equalized 19 minutes later. Mitch Wheelon whipped a corner kick that bent into the far side netting. But the score wasn't knotted for long. Three minutes later, Beasley scored to restore the Papermakers' lead.
The third goal was a nifty play on the counter-attack and gave Camas a cushion with 23 minutes remaining. Freshman Bennett Lehner intercepted a pass in midfield, broke forward and sent a lead pass for Beasley. With two Titans converging, Beasley back-heeled a pass that found Lehner and his shot from the top of the 18-yard box was true.
"I just saw (Lehner) running and flicked it back to him." Beasley said. "It was cool."
It was also important. Union had several high quality chances on the night, including two where Camas defenders Sam Pizot and Calvin Goon cleared the ball from the goal mouth.
"You've got to make your own luck," Union coach Kelcey Burris said. "I thought our kids competed. We just weren't right on the day, and they were right."
Right now, Camas is on a good run, one that coach Roland Minder attributes to younger players finding their way at the varsity level. The Papermakers have only two healthy seniors.
"For one thing, the guys got confidence and started believing," Minder said, pointing to a March 30 comeback win at Bonney Lake and a April 19 win at Skyview as confidence builders. "The younger guys, especially, came through so that helped.
Beasley, a junior in his third varsity season, said finding a common purpose made a difference.
"I knew we were going to have to find something that we all had in common," Beasley said. "You could say physicality is one of those things. We all play pretty tough. We all like to stand our ground. That's really what keeps us together."
On Wednesday, the ground they held was the top spot in the district.