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Columbia River boys soccer cruises to state berth with 8-0 district semifinal win

Rapids' 10th straight shutout sets up all-2A GSHL district title game Thursday

By Meg Wochnick, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 7, 2024, 9:15pm

The loudest cheers and biggest celebration from Columbia River’s boys soccer players in their 2A district semifinal win over Tumwater on Tuesday night came after senior Neil Potnis corralled a loose ball in the box, and found the back of the net. 

It was the senior’s first varsity goal. 

Potnis soaked in the moment as teammates on the field and off the bench mobbed the midfielder to help celebrate his accomplishment in the Rapids’ 8-0 win to lock up a state berth.  

In fact, head coach Matt Newman said one of the team’s focuses the past few games was to get Potnis, a junior-varsity player for three seasons prior to making the varsity roster this spring, at least one goal before his high school career ended. 

Tuesday, it happened when his goal in the 57th minute — the Rapids’ second and final goal of the second half — extended the home team’s lead to 8-0.

“I felt pretty relieved,” Potnis said postgame. “We’ve been trying to get me my first goal for the past five games, so it was a lot of pressure on my back, but it feels great.”

Tuesday’s victory sets up an all-2A Greater St. Helens League district title match Thursday at Kiggins Bowl against R.A. Long. The Lumberjacks came back from down 3-1 late to win 4-3 in overtime against W.F. West, champions of the 2A Evergreen Conference. 

Tuesday, River’s win over the Thunderbirds extended the team’s shutout streak 10 games while getting goals from five players. It has outscored its opponents 50-0 since an April 11 shootout loss to Hudson’s Bay. 

In fact, that loss to the eventual playoff-bound Eagles snapped a 72-game league winning streak. River last lost a league contest May 2, 2017 in the regular-season finale against Ridgefield. Since then, River rattled off 72 straight league wins through April 9, and captured two Class 2A state championships in that span (2018, 2023). 

What was the Rapids’ biggest takeaway from that loss, and how has it changed the team since then? For starters, junior Ryland Perron said, never overlook any opponent. 

“We took our foot off the gas (in that loss),” said Perron, who scored a hat trick Tuesday. “… From now on, every game moving forward, we’re on the gas, full throttle, going at it.”

River was full-throttle Tuesday against the Thunderbirds (9-8-1) — and early. JP Guzman’s goal just 25 seconds into the game jump started River’s offense that was on cruise control for 80 minutes. What followed was a flurry of goals, including three over a 2-minute span by Bryce Diaz, Guzman and Fidel Banuelos. By the 19th minute, River’s lead reached 6-0. 

It’s not the first time River has scored in the first minute of a game this season. But when a goal happens that early on, Perron said only good things follow from the offense. 

“We’re a pretty relentless team, so we just keep pushing.”

2A district semifinal

COLUMBIA RIVER 8, TUMWATER 0

Columbia River 

Goals (assists) — JP Guzman (Carver Taylor), Ryland Perron (Evan Roscoe), Bryce Diaz (unassisted), Guzman (Cameron Harris), Fidel Banuelos (Jaydon Muodzi), Perron (Guzman), Neil Potnis (Mason Renner). Goalkeeper saves — Cameron Harris 0; Eli Smith 1.

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