Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Feb. 8, 2023

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Columbia River boys soccer team runs deep into district final

Chieftains roll to 5-0 soccer win over R.A. Long

By , Columbian staff writer

If there’s one area that favors the Columbia River boys soccer team in its quest for a state trophy, it’s depth.

It’s been that way all season, rolling to the 2A Greater St. Helens League title, and it was that way in the Chieftains’ 5-0 victory Tuesday over R.A. Long in the teams’ 2A District IV semifinal match at Kiggins Stadium.

Never before in coach Filomon Afenegus’ tenure at River has his boys team been this deep.

“That’s one thing we really have,” he said, “and our blessed.”

Tuesday’s victory sends qualifies the Chieftains (16-1-1 overall) to the 2A state tournament, and into Thursday’s district title game against Aberdeen, a 2-1 winner Tuesday over Ridgefield. Game time at Kiggins Stadium was not announced Tuesday night.

That depth also stretches into the youth. The Chieftains started five ninth graders in Tuesday’s match against the 2A GSHL rival Lumberjacks (9-9-0), a team they swept 6-2 and 7-0 in the regular season. While the players agreed the first half — nursing a 1-0 halftime lead — wasn’t played to their standard, the final 40 minutes was a better showing, finding the net four times for the shutout victory.

Freshmen Jake Connop, Jackson Kleier and Jacob Warthen had three of the team’s four assists.

“We have the best freshmen I’ve seen in the area,” said junior Bailey Sarvela, who had two of River’s five goals. “They’re insane.”

In fact, three of the Chieftains’ five goals came from recent junior-varsity call-ups: Sarvela’s pair of goals, including the first-half goal in the 25th minute which put River ahead 1-0 at the break, and Julian Villa-Salas’ goal that capped the team’s scoring in the 65th minute.

While Villa-Salas was called up to start the playoffs, Tuesday was Sarvela’s sixth varsity game. A Skyview transfer, he was cut by the Storm his freshman and sophomore seasons, leaving him with two soccer-less springs the past two years. That gave him extra motivation in the off-season, as he was about to suit up for the Chieftains.

“That was a wake-up call that I needed to work,” said Sarvela, a junior.

He worked his way up to varsity the final two weeks of the regular season, and his two goals Tuesday were his first in a varsity uniform.

“It was a good feeling,” he added.

Roger Pinacho made it 2-0 off a cross by Warthen minutes into the second half, as all four second-half goals came over 19 minutes. David Gonzalez-Martinez and Reilly Burke combined fo the shutout in goal.

As a Class 3A state quarterfinalist a season ago, Afenegus said how high the team’s ceiling is for 2017 depends if the work ethic matches the team’s talent.

Then,” he said, “the sky’s the limit.”