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2A state soccer: Columbia River beats Renton on Guzman’s late winner

Defending state champs survive tough first-round test

By Micah Rice, Columbian Sports Editor
Published: May 14, 2024, 10:42pm
6 Photos
Columbia River&rsquo;s J.P. Guzman (10) celebrates his first goal against Renton in the Class 2A boys soccer state playoffs with teammates Evan Roscoe, left, and Ryland Perron, back, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024 at Columbia River High School.
Columbia River’s J.P. Guzman (10) celebrates his first goal against Renton in the Class 2A boys soccer state playoffs with teammates Evan Roscoe, left, and Ryland Perron, back, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024 at Columbia River High School. (Micah Rice/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

On a windy evening with gusts strong enough to blow over an aluminum bench, the Columbia River boys soccer team needed someone unshakable.

That was J.P. Guzman.

The junior midfielder scored twice, including the winner in stoppage time, as the Rapids beat Renton 2-1 in the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs Tuesday at Columbia River High.

A free kick from 40 yards fell to Guzman in a crowd in front of the Renton goal. After a quick touch, he poked the ball into the net before running toward the corner flag to celebrate with teammates.

“I saw it bounce in front of me,” Guzman said. “My first instinct was to hit it. Luckily it went in. It’s a great feeling.”

On the opposite end of the field, Columbia River senior goalkeeper Cameron Harris didn’t need to front-row seat to know Guzman had done something special.

He’s seen the Rapids leading scorer make those types of plays all season.

“I know I can always expect something out of him,” Harris said. “There’s just nothing this guy can’t do. He always steps up to the challenge and I’ve never seen him back down.”

The reigning 2A state champion, Columbia River (20-1) now heads to the quarterfinals. The No. 4 seed Rapids will host No. 5 East Valley-Yakima this weekend in a rematch of last year’s quarterfinals that River won 3-0.

After outscoring its final two district tournament opponents 15-1, Columbia River got a tougher test from Renton. The No. 13 seed Redhawks (9-8-2) entered Tuesday having won eight of their last nine, including three loser-out matches to reach the state playoffs for the first time since 1985.

With the wind at its back, Renton disrupted the Rapids in the midfield and had as much, if not more, of the possession in a scoreless first half.

The unsettled play of the field was mirrored by a wind gust that blew over a bench behind River’s substitutes, scattering the team’s hydration bottles.

Harris, one of the team’s captains, delivered a fiery speech in the huddle before the Rapids took the field for the second half.

“I really wanted them to feel how I was feeling,” Harris said. “This had a chance to be my last game I ever play here.”

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With the wind now at its back, Columbia River’s attack unfurled its sails. That led to Guzman’s first goal from 10 yards just four minutes into the second half.

“I think the team responded excellently,” Harris said. “We came out with so much energy.”

But Renton needed just three minutes to respond. Nathan Chavez gained possession just outside of the penalty area and laced a hard, low shot inside right post to tie the match.

“We knew this team was going to come out with a lot of fire,” Guzman said. “They had something to prove.”

Both teams created changes in the waning minutes. Harris made two of his five saves within three minutes of each other as the match entered its final 10 minutes.

Harris, who was rarely called into action as River outscored 2A Greater St. Helens League opponents 78-5, showed no rust.

“For me it’s always just being mentally prepared,” Harris said. “It helps a lot knowing I have a great group of players around me. I always have trust in them and I hope they have trust in me.”

Guzman followed with his go-ahead goal, putting the Rapids one win from their fifth trip to the state semifinals since 2018.

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