TUMWATER — Playing from behind was a scenario the once-undefeated Columbia River boys soccer team hadn’t faced all season.
It was all the more stunning to see it for the first time in the Class 2A state semifinals on Friday, then, when Burlington-Edison delivered one haymaker after another in a four-minute stretch of the first half, turning a 2-0 River lead into a 3-2 deficit.
The Rapids got their equalizer from a Nathan Bertolino goal in the 65th minute, but the go-ahead goal eluded them. Tied at the end of regulation and through a pair of five-minute, golden-goal overtime periods, the semifinal was decided in a penalty kick shootout, which River knew would be a toss-up.
Burlington-Edison converted all five of their PKs and goalkeeper Ivan Garcia made one crucial save to give the Tigers a 4-3 (5-4 PKs) win and deal River its first loss of the season. Burlington-Edison will play Squalicum on Saturday in the championship and River will face Sammamish in the third-place game.
“The second half we were not trying to get into kicks, because when you get into kicks, it’s just a crapshoot,” River head coach Filly Afenegus said. “We wanted to end it on our own terms and try to get the win in overtime. (We) had a couple chances in overtime and just kind of fell short.”
The opening minutes of the first half suggested the Rapids (22-1) were well on their way to a win.
Alex Harris drew a foul inside the penalty box in the 10th minute and subsequently scored on a PK, then added a second goal just two minutes later on an assist from Rowen Naylor.
That 2-0 lead was short-lived. Burlington-Edison (14-6-1) scored twice in the 27th minute, the first headed in by Fernando Velazquez on a corner kick, before a deflected ball found its way to Jordan Gomez for a goal.
Just a few minutes later, Kounosuke Wilcox put through a ball saved by River on a second chance, giving the Tigers a 3-2 advantage going into halftime.
Burlington-Edison had all the momentum, but River’s patience paid off 25 minutes into the second half with Bertolino’s goal, while the Rapids back line and goalkeeper Cameron Harris kept the Tigers off the board for the rest of regulation and OT.
“It’s a tough group of kids, mentally and emotionally,” Afenegus said. “To have gone down 3-2, and for them to claw themselves back in the second half and have a couple chances to win it, it’s a testament to this group and how resilient they are.”
River went first in the PK shootout and had its second attempt saved by Garcia, which set up Anthony Andrade to score the match-clinching PK for the Tigers.
After the Rapids circled up in the post-match huddle, Afenegus pulled aside his eight seniors to talk for a few extra moments.
“I just told them I love them,” Afenegus said. “This has been one of the most amazing senior groups I’ve had, top to bottom. I mean, every single day they’ve brought their lunch pail and every single day they’ve been willing to serve their teammates. Just amazing kids.”