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Dec. 1, 2023

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All-Region boys soccer: Alex Harris, Columbia River

Senior averaged a hat trick during the season as the Rapids won first state title since 2018

By , Columbian staff writer
5 Photos
Columbia River senior Alex Harris (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian)
Columbia River senior Alex Harris (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Soccer is just one of many arenas where Columbia River senior Alex Harris showcases his competitive nature.

Another, apparently, is ping-pong.

Over the course of the season, River boys soccer players take part in something they call “Legacy Cup,” wherein players are divided into six teams and compete in a series of games.

On one of those Legacy Cup days this spring, Harris was playing ping-pong against a teammate and losing. So, he dialed up the intensity and left little doubt by the end who the best ping-pong player on the team was, River coach Matt Newman said.

“I’m definitely a competitive person,” Harris said. “I thrive in competitive situations. A lot of the time, especially when I’m getting beat at something, I get extra competitive.”

Considering how the last two years played out, that mindset helped Harris and the Rapids soar.

Last season, Harris and teammates felt the sting of losing in the Class 2A state semifinals and settling for third place. This year, in the 2A state championship match, River trailed North Kitsap 2-1 in the second half before rattling off three unanswered goals, the last scored by Harris, to capture the program’s first state title since 2018.

“(We) take a lot of pride in that, because that’s what we were unable to do last year, was fight back from a deficit,” Harris said. “So this year, we all had so much confidence in each other and we were just like, if we go down we know we can come back. When we went down, the intensity didn’t drop at all.”

Along the way, Harris, The Columbian’s All-Region boys soccer player of the year for a second straight season, was nothing short of sensational. With 76 goals in 24 games, Harris averaged a hat trick while topping last season’s tally of 51 goals. He leaves River with a program-record 134 goals, a figure that is also believed to be among the top prep marks in Washington state history.

“I’ve never seen anything remotely close to it,” Newman said. “The fact that he had 50-some goals last year and had 20 more goals, at least, this year … is pretty unreal. But it goes to show how competitive he is with not just other teams but with himself, trying to beat the things he’s accomplished already. It’s really amazing to see.”

River graduated a talented class of 12 seniors from last year’s team. Harris knew a major part of his role this spring would be scoring goals. But after his breakout junior season, opposing teams often put together game plans predicated on restricting Harris.

It was a credit to his athleticism, intellect and off-ball movement to find open spaces to score at such a high clip.

“He can run the back shoulders of defenders like it’s nothing,” Newman said, “and he’s fast enough and athletic enough that, if he’s five yards away from defenders, he’s still going to beat them to the spot.”

But as Harris noted, his goals wouldn’t be possible without teammates setting him up. River reloaded this year with a handful of players stepping into larger roles.

While the 2022 roster was loaded with talent, the Rapids weren’t truly tested until the state playoffs. When they faced a deficit in the semifinals, the Rapids didn’t know how to deal with the adversity, Harris said.

Though this year’s group never experienced a loss, they were battle-tested.

They faced a first-half deficit in an early 2A Greater St. Helens League game March 28 against Hockinson. State playoff games against East Valley-Yakima and Sehome were contested, as was the state championship against North Kitsap.

“It was always a battle, and I just think that mentality of, we will battle no matter what is just what eventually helped us get the win,” Harris said. “Technically and tactically we’re good enough soccer players to go out and win; it just comes down to how much we’re willing to put on the field in these moments and just lay it all out and give all maximum effort.”

Prior to his senior season, Harris finalized plans to play college soccer at Cornell.

Though Harris said he didn’t envision himself continuing with soccer beyond high school a couple years ago, his joy for the sport grew playing in River’s program. Plus, being a prestigious institution in the Ivy League, Harris found the perfect mix between academics and athletics.

“It was a great situation for me to be in,” he said.

Rest of the All-Region boys soccer team

Hunter Cunningham, Columbia River: Senior defender was named the 2A Greater St. Helens League Defensive Most Valuable Player. One of the leaders on the Rapids’ back line that allowed just nine goals during the season.

Sam Soto, Seton Catholic: Tabbed as the 1A Trico League’s Player of the Year, the sophomore forward helped the Cougars place fourth at the 1A state tournament — the best finish in program history.

Martin Estrada, Heritage: Senior defender, a Multnomah signee, was the 3A GSHL POY for the league champion Timberwolves. Led a defense that allowed 13 goals for the season.

JP Guzman, Columbia River: Junior midfielder and 2A GSHL first-team pick was a key playmaker for the Rapids, tallying 10 goals and 22 assists.

Garik Shevchuk, Union: In Union’s run to the 4A state quarterfinals, senior forward/midfielder was pivotal. Shevchuk tallied 15 goals, seven assists and was the catalyst of everything the Titans did offensively, Union coach Jason Moore said.

Theo McMillan, Camas: Senior defender earned 4A GSHL Defensive POY honors for the league champion Papermakers.

Lucas Witthauer, Skyview: Senior forward and Western Washington signee tallied a team-high 20 goals along with four assists. The Storm reached the 4A bi-district tournament.

Luke Gomes, King’s Way Christian: Sophomore midfielder and 1A Trico League Offensive POY compiled 14 goals and 20 assists in 18 games. The Knights reached the 1A state tournament for the first time in program history.

Grayson Allen, Prairie: Junior goalkeeper, who was a 3A GSHL first-team selection, kept the Falcons in games with timely saves.

Teagan Cabebe, Hockinson: Senior defender, a 2A GSHL first-team selection, anchored Hawks’ defense that had nine league shutouts while tallying seven goals and one assist. Hockinson reached 2A state playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Diego Bejar, Evergreen: Junior midfielder was a 3A GSHL first-team pick for the Plainsmen, who finished third in league and reached the 3A bi-district tournament.

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