Oregon Episcopal's Connor Mansfield (24) pushes up the field against Catlin Gabel. (Photo by John Holloran)
Oregon Episcopal's Connor Mansfield (24) pushes up the field against Catlin Gabel. (Photo by John Holloran)

Oregon Episcopal's boys soccer team waited 16 months for a chance at some payback against Special District 1 rival Catlin Gabel, which beat the Aardvarks in the last two 3A/2A/1A finals.

So OES took advantage of the opportunity Saturday to beat the visiting Eagles 4-3, its first win in the series after losing four in a row.

“We've had results against Catlin in the past, but of course, the history that we have with them in the finals, especially over the past two seasons, that lasts a little bit,” Aardvarks coach David Rosenberg said. “I think these guys are excited to put their own fingerprint on this and create their own story, and make this theirs.”

After giving up an early own-goal, OES took control to lead 3-1 at half. Junior Torben Karl scored off an assist from junior Jon Segal. Junior Maisam Moradi converted a pass from junior Connor Mansfield. And junior Patt Ruoff drilled a left-footed, half-volley into the goal from about 22 yards out.

Catlin Gabel pulled within 3-2 when senior Kai Gamboa converted a penalty kick in the 55th minute, but Aardvarks senior James Lawliss answered on a free kick in the 70th minute, making it 4-2. The Eagles punched in a goal off a scrum in the 77th minute, but OES held on to close out the win.

“These boys felt some ownership of this moment, to sort of handle what they've been through in the past, and say, 'You know what, we're going to put the right foot forward now,'” Rosenberg said. “And they did it.”

The OES offense was opportunistic, and sophomore defenders Braeden Carter and Henry Gewecke were up to the challenge on the other end.

“They played so strong and so brave all night,” Rosenberg said. “It was a little bit stressful, but they handled it, and I was really proud of them.”

The Aardvarks, who opened with an 8-0 win over Portland Christian on Wednesday, improved to 2-0. It was the second loss in a row for the Eagles (1-2), who fell to 6A Cleveland 3-1 on Wednesday.

Catlin Gabel played Saturday without junior striker Felipe Rueda Duran, who scored two goals in the Eagles' 3-1 win over OES in the 2019 state final. The teams meet in the regular-season finale April 1 on the Eagles' field.

“Of course we'll be excited to play them again,” Rosenberg said. “We'll be excited to carry this momentum over the next couple weeks. But the season is so short, we're just going to appreciate every second that we get.”

In a season without an OSAA championship, the regular-season matches carry extra bragging rights.

“There's so much respect between the two sides,” Rosenberg said. “I think we recognize that Catlin and ourselves are some of the best teams in the state. And of course we want to be battling against the best as many times as we can.”

Wildcat strike

OES wasn't the only team last week to avenge a state-championship defeat.

Wilsonville opened its season Thursday at home by beating 5A Northwest Oregon Conference rival La Salle Prep 2-1, settling a score for a 2-1 loss to the Falcons in the 2019 state final.

It was Wilsonville's first win over La Salle Prep since a 1-0 result in the 2016 state semifinals. Since that time, the Wildcats had dropped four in a row to the Falcons, including two matches last year.

“The guys were certainly excited to win against La Salle,” Wilsonville coach Ian Reschke said. “Some of them are still motivated by how last season played out. So it was pretty special for us, especially our seniors.”

The Falcons controlled play for much of the first half, but failed to capitalize, and Wildcats senior Adam Landy found the net in the 39th minute for a 1-0 halftime lead.

“He snuck it in there. It gave us momentum going into halftime,” Reschke said.

Wilsonville made it 2-0 with about 15 minutes left. Junior Jared Perez's free kick was saved and pushed off the post by La Salle Prep's goalkeeper, and sophomore Greg Keswick pounced on the rebound and tapped it into the goal.

The Falcons converted on a breakaway with about eight minutes left to draw within 2-1, but the Wildcats were able to turn back some late chances and emerge with the win.

“La Salle really turned on the jets and put the pressure on,” Reschke said of the Falcons, who were playing their first match under new coach Merlin Triplett.

Wilsonville sophomore goalkeeper Chase Nelson, who got the start for injured senior George Krecklow, was “outstanding,” according to Reschke.

“Our guys played a lot better in the second half,” Reschke said. “We got kind of that wake-up call. We've got a number of new guys on our roster from last year, and I think we had a pretty steep learning curve in the first half. We stepped it up and really played with them.”

Wilsonville returned six starters from last season, including their leading scorer in Landy.

“We have a decent amount of experience all around,” Reschke said. “We're pretty well balanced. We don't have a true superstar. We've got a number of guys that can step up and provide the offense.”

The teams are scheduled to play again April 1 at La Salle Prep in the final regular season game.

Cash money

The Cota name is synonymous with football in southern Oregon. Chad Cota starred at Ashland before playing defensive back at Oregon and in the NFL. His son, Chase, was a standout receiver at South Medford and now plays at UCLA.

But now Cash Cota – Chad's nephew and Chase's cousin – is making his way on the soccer field. The Ashland freshman, the son of Jarrod Cota, had a goal and an assist in a season-opening 2-0 win over Roseburg and controlled the midfield in a 3-1 win over Grants Pass.

“He is unreal,” Grizzlies coach Abdiaziz Guled said of the 5-foot-6 ½, 123-pound midfielder and forward. “He has mobility, and a serious kick. My gosh, I never thought that a freshman would have that serious of a kick. He's not that big, but boy, he can send that thing like crazy.”

Guled said that Ashland was struggling against Roseburg's big, physical defenders, but after moving Cash up front in the second half, the Grizzles' offense began to push through.

“He took them apart,” Guled said. “He just takes three guys at a time and drags them all over the place. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the goalie, who was at least 6-3, coming out, and he just chipped on top of him. We didn't think he was going to go that way.

“He's a little guy, but strong. He has the ability to shield the ball with his strong legs. He's tough.”

Guled coached Cash in eighth-grade basketball and said that the point guard was “unstoppable.”

“Whatever sports he plays, oh my goodness, the kid is just great,” Guled said. “And a great kid to coach. You should see his attitude. He's just smiling.”

Cash trained during the summer with former Ashland soccer standout Scott Gustafson, the state's Gatorade Player of the year, who is now a freshman at Washington. Guled gave Gustafson's No. 5 jersey to Cash for this season.

“I knew it was a fit for him, and I knew the relation they have,” Guled said. “I know Cash was delighted. He really wanted that.”

Tables turn

Cascade Christian's boys not only ended a seven-match scoreless streak against St. Mary's of Medford on Saturday, the Challengers blew away the Crusaders 8-0.

Cascade Christian had not scored against St. Mary's since a 2-0 win in the first round of Special District 5 play in 2016. In the next seven matches, the Crusaders outscored the Challengers 26-0.

But that all got turned upside down Saturday at US Cellular Field in Medford. Senior Luke Sciapiti recorded a hat trick in the first half, senior Jonny McCoy added a hat trick in the second half and freshman goalkeeper Dylan Westlake completed a shutout.

Cascade Christian, runner-up to St. Mary's in 3A/2A/1A Special District 5 in 2019, has won its first two matches by a combined score of 17-1. The Challengers won their opener 9-1 at Rogue Valley Adventist.