After falling in the quarterfinals the last two years, Lakeridge reached the top of 6A by beating Jesuit on Saturday.
After falling in the quarterfinals the last two years, Lakeridge reached the top of 6A by beating Jesuit on Saturday.

SHERWOOD – Down by one goal with 10 minutes left, top-seeded Lakeridge didn't flinch in the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 6A boys soccer final Saturday night at Sherwood High School.

The highest-scoring team in 6A refused to let the moment get away against reigning champion and second-seeded Jesuit.

“We told ourselves that we could come back from anything,” Pacers senior center midfielder Rafa Loyo said. “We had to keep our head in the game. There was still a lot of time left.”

Lakeridge (18-1) got a goal from senior Karson Kosik in the 72nd minute to force overtime, where Loyo's goal two minutes into the first overtime session stood up for a 3-2 win. The Pacers won their seventh state title and first since 2016.

For a team that had not trailed in a match in the nine games since its only loss – a 2-1 loss to 5A finalist Hood River Valley – the Pacers showed they could battle from behind.

“I think we responded well,” coach Alan Cox said. “The message from the sideline was, 'Don't panic, there's a lot of time left, and we know we're capable of creating chances.'

“It was a test of character, but it was a test that was nailed.”

It was a tough loss for Jesuit (14-3-2), which was looking to add to its state record of 16 state championships. With only four starters back from last year's champion, the Crusaders were on the brink of a repeat but were unable to close it out.

“You couldn't ask for a better game than that,” Jesuit senior midfielder Nathan Peters said. “It was going both ways. I thought we played an incredible game, and I thought Lakeridge did, too. It just really came down to they finished one more chance than we did.”

Lakeridge took a 1-0 lead in the final minute of the first half when Loyo drew a foul in the box and deposited the ensuing penalty kick.

Jesuit seized a 2-1 lead by scoring goals in the 49th and 50th minutes. The first came on a header by senior Jack Reding off a corner kick. The second was a 20-yard shot by sophomore Eyad Salhi off an assist by senior Logan McGuire.

The Crusaders protected their lead by staving off two excellent chances by senior Mauricio Loyo, but Kosik finally drew the Pacers even at 2-2 in the 72nd minute by scoring off a corner kick by senior Jacob Real.

“We just had to put numbers forward, get a goal back,” Kosik said. “ We had to really crash the box, every time we could, and just be clinical and finish. We knew we could come back. We knew we could get a goal.”

In the 82nd minute, Rafa Loyo hit a one-timer off a free kick by Kosik past Jesuit senior goalkeeper Elliot Parelius for what turned out to be the winning goal.

“I just saw the ball bounce and I hit it on the half-volley,” said Loyo, who finished the season with nine goals.

Rafa Loyo showed why he was voted the Three Rivers League player of the year.

“Rafa's the heart and soul of this team,” Kosik said.

Cox said that Rafa Loyo is “cultured” in his approach to the game.

“He's kind of wise beyond his years as a high school player,” Cox said. “He knows how to manage the emotions of players, he knows how to manage the moments in games, and then he matches that with quality. He can do something to influence a game, and he's done that again tonight.”

An overtime semifinal win over Lake Oswego helped prepare the Pacers for what they faced against Jesuit, according to Rafa Loyo.

“We told ourselves we've been through it, and we got through it,” he said.

After losing in the quarterfinals for two years in a row, the Pacers were motivated to make a run this season. Rafa Loyo recalled a conversation he had with senior Rollo Van Driesche following last year's quarterfinal loss.

“We were like, 'This is not going to happen again. And we have to work,'” he said. “It took a whole group of brothers to get this done. I'm extremely proud of my team that we got the job done. Now it's time to celebrate.”