For as much skill as soccer requires, some games are decided by luck.
The Columbia River boys soccer team ran out of luck Tuesday in the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs at Kiggins Bowl.
After the match ended 3-3, the Chieftains lost to Highline of Burien in a penalty-kick shootout, which finished 5-4.
After winning the Greater St. Helens League title and the District 4 tournament, Columbia River’s season is over at 17-2-1.
“We were so close,” Chieftains coach Filomon Afenegus said. “We just didn’t get the breaks. We had a lot of opportunities to finish the game off. We just weren’t able to do so.”
Down 3-1, Columbia River forced overtime with two goals in the final six minutes of regulation.
Once in overtime, Columbia River had one potential goal disallowed and another saved by Highline’s goalkeeper when it seemed certain the ball would dip under the crossbar.
The No. 4 seed from District 3, Highline (14-5-1) scored on three of its five shots on goal. Pirates coach Eduardo Millan said his team was fortunate.
“We got lucky,” he said. “It could have gone either way.”
Columbia River controlled possession in the first 15 minutes. There were three golden scoring chances, but each went just wide.
When Highline found its footing midway through the first half, the Pirates wasted little time converting their chances.
With 18 minutes left in the first half, Tommie McNeal controlled a high looping pass with his chest, then scored from close range.
Ten minutes later, Leandro Anaya received a corner kick and curled a 20-yard shot into the goal’s upper-left corner.
Columbia River came out of halftime with plenty of urgency. It took just two minutes before Alfonso DeLaPaz scored from close range to cut Highline’s lead to 2-1.
Highline responded quickly after the ensuing kickoff, drawing a penalty kick after one of its players was tripped in the penalty area. But Columbia River goalkeeper Reilly Burke dove to his left to save the penalty kick.
Highline kept the pressure on and took a 3-1 lead on Guillermo Iraheta’s 30-yard shot with 21 minutes to play.
With its season on the line, Columbia River pushed its players forward. That pressure paid off when Candler Bolte headed in a free kick to pull River within 3-2 with six minutes to play.
Columbia River tied the match with two minutes remaining. A pass toward the front of the goal mouth ricocheted off a few players before Ethan Adams kicked it into the net from point-blank range.
“Our boys showed a lot of character,” Afenegus said. “We were resilient down the home stretch.”
River controlled possession in the overtime. The Chieftains thought they had won after a goalmouth scrum with three minutes left. But the referee called a foul on what the Chieftains thought was the game-winning goal.
“We had quite a few scrums where the ball was bouncing between the sticks,” Afenegus said. “We just needed a little bit of luck.”
In the penalty kick shootout, both teams made their first four shots. Highline goalkeeper Kevin Ortega saved River’s fifth attempt, allowing the Pirates to win on their next kick.
The loss was tough to swallow for a young Columbia River team, which started five freshman this year. But Afenegus hopes it will motivate his team going forward.
“I think this will be painful for a while,” he said. “But this is something that we can definitely draw inspiration from in the years to come.”
HIGHLINE 4, COLUMBIA RIVER 3
(Highline wins PK shootout 5-4)
Goals (assists) – Tommie McNeal (Alexis Cortes), Leandro Anaya (Cristian Cortes), Guillermo Iraheta (unassisted). Goalkeeper saves – Kevin Ortega 6.
Goals (assists) – Alfonso DeLaPaz (Roger Pinacho), Candler Bolte (Jackson Kleier), Ethan Adams (unassisted). Goalkeeper saves – David Gonzalez-Martinez 1, Reilly Burke 1.
Halftime – 2-0 Highline.