The trophy had just been presented. Friends and parents waited excitedly on the field.
But the Columbia River boys soccer team wanted a private moment. Its players sprinted to the Kiggins Bowl locker room.
Anyone within earshot, which was pretty much everyone, could tell the mood inside that locker room.
Columbia River beat Aberdeen 1-0 in a tense Class 2A Southwest District championship match Thursday.
It’s Columbia River’s first district title. It wasn’t clinched until Aberdeen’s last-second header off a corner kick sailed barely over the crossbar.
“It has been our whole history without one, so the feeling right now I can’t describe it,” said junior defender Candler Bolte.
Columbia River (17-1-1) had already clinched its third state playoff berth in the past four years. The Chieftains will host a first-round game next week against either Highline or Kingston, which play Saturday for the No. 4 seed from District 3.
Jake Connop scored the game’s only goal with 29 minutes left. It came after Bolte headed Jacob Warthen’s corner kick off the left post.
The ball ricocheted to Connop, who poked the ball in from close range.
“I just got my foot to it and put it in,” he said. “Right place, right time.”
Connop has scored a team-high 19 goals. Not bad for a freshman.
Connop is one of five freshmen starting for a Chieftains team that graduated 13 seniors last season.
“We’re getting great contributions from our freshman class,” River coach Filomon Afenegus said. “More importantly, we’re getting great leadership from our upperclassmen to get everybody gelled together.”
That leadership showed in Thursday’s match, which saw River denied on four high-quality scoring chances by Aberdeen goalkeeper Alexis Garcia-Guzman.
Connop scored one minute after Garcia-Guzman saved a penalty kick.
Columbia River controlled a majority of the possession. But that switched in the game’s final minutes.
With four minutes to play, Chieftains goalkeeper Reilly Burke made a leaping save to deflect a 30-yard shot narrowly over the crossbar.
With two minutes left, an Aberdeen crossing pass rattled in front of the goal mouth for several seconds. At least three River defenders stood in the way as Aberdeen players kicked wildly at the ball.
“I think the best part was that we kept our composure,” Afenegus said. “We had a lot of chances to score and we didn’t. … For us to keep our composure in the last two minutes when they’re pushing everybody forward was great.”
Aberdeen (15-3-0) entered Thursday having won 12 in a row. Columbia River feels primed for the state playoffs after winning a tense match that grew increasingly physical.
“I said at the beginning of warmups, the way we play today sets the tone for state,” Bolte said. “We came out today and put in more work than we have in any game this season.”
COLUMBIA RIVER 1, ABERDEEN 0
Goalkeeper saves – Alexis Garcia-Guzman 7.
Goals (assists) – Jake Connop (unassisted). Goalkeeper saves – David Gonzalez-Martinez 2, Reilly Burke 3.
Halftime – 0-0.