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2A state soccer: East Valley’s physical play sets tone for 4-1 win over Columbia River in quarterfinals

Red Devils defeat Rapids in rematch of 2023 state quarterfinal

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 18, 2024, 8:57pm

East Valley was out for revenge Saturday against a Columbia River team that ended its 2023 season in the Class 2A state boys soccer quarterfinals.

After falling 3-0 in that game to the eventual state champion Rapids, the Red Devils of Yakima had the perfect antidote to contain River in the rematch — their physical, confident and technically-sound defense.

No. 5 seed East Valley held No. 4 River scoreless for more than 60 minutes while building a two-goal lead and pushed through for a 4-1 win against the Rapids at John O’Rourke Field. The Red Devils (19-1) advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since 2017 and the Rapids (20-2) fell one win short of their third straight final four trip.

“This is the most physical team we’ve seen all season,” River coach Matt Newman said. “I was really proud of our boys being able to withstand some of the physicality and push forward, but we we haven’t had a lot of big challenges like that, so it just kind of shows the inexperience in that way through the season. But, I’m sure those boys are going to remember that next year — how physical those games are.”

11 Photos
East Valley goalkeeper Samuel Gonzalez-Salas, center, and center back Jacob Russell, right, attempt to keep the ball away from Columbia River's Alex Snyder in front of goal during the Class 2A boys soccer state quarterfinals on Saturday, May 18, 2024, at Columbia River High School.
2A State Soccer: East Valley at Columbia River Photo Gallery

East Valley’s back line, led by senior captains Jacob Russell and Gavin Gordon, as well as goalkeeper Samuel Gonzalez-Salas, hadn’t conceded a goal in seven straight games coming into Saturday.

That made the Rapids’ task daunting after the Red Devils scored first in the eighth minute on a goal headed in by Russell from a Brandon Garcia corner kick, and even more so when Garcia added a goal four minutes into the second half to put the home team in a 2-0 deficit.

River stayed persistent on its attack, and was rewarded in the 63rd minute with a corner kick after East Valley’s clearance attempt bounced off one of its own players and out of bounds. River junior Tito Banuelos sent a corner kick into a crowd in front of goal, and sophomore Bryce Diaz knocked the ball into the net with his body, cutting River’s lead to 2-1.

The Rapids had renewed hope as they went for the tying goal. Their best chance came around the 70-minute mark when JP Guzman lobbed a free kick over East Valley’s first line of defense, but the Rapids’ header veered wide of the goal.

In the 75th minute, Garcia delivered the dagger on a 30-yard free kick that found the top left corner, out of the reach of Columbia River’s goalkeeper.

“This is the first time we’ve been down all season,” Newman said, “and I’m proud of the boys for at least getting up there and getting good opportunities at the goal. These set pieces, they’re a doozy. They win or lose games. … We scored off a set piece, they scored off set pieces. Sometimes that’s how it happens this late in the season. But I’m proud of them for getting those opportunities, getting into the attack and really pushing for each other and having each other’s back.”

With the win, East Valley advances to face No. 1 seed Sehome in the semifinals Friday in Renton. Although the Rapids’ season were denied a trip to that final four stage, they could only tip their caps to a Red Devils team that earned every bit of their semifinals berth.

“They’re super disciplined,” Newman said. “They were a good, young group last year and they’re a really good group this year. They’ve got an opportunity to really compete against some of those big boys up north. I’m really excited to see what they can do because they’re a tough opponent. That back line is really physical and really disciplined.”