As Clackamas midfielder Brandon Farfan lined up to take the free kick, his first inclination was to try to cross the ball to Cavaliers' striker Cooper Sheakley.
Then Farfan noticed that Centennial keeper Jason Marcus, the Eagles' backup who had entered the game 10 minutes earlier for injured starter Dennis Bessarab, was setting up a little too far to the left side of the goal.
"He was giving me the whole right side," Farfan said. "So, I said, 'Why not try to curl it in?' I got lucky and I made it."
Farfan's shot from about 35 yards out on the left wing found the top-right corner of the net for the go-ahead goal in the 65th minute, highlighting the Cavaliers' 3-1 Mt. Hood Conference boys soccer home win Wednesday over the Eagles.
After Farfan's second goal of the game gave Clackamas a 2-1 lead, Sheakley put the game out of reach with a goal off a partial breakaway in the 67th minute, helping the Cavaliers (6-0-3, 1-0-1 Mt. Hood) remain one of only four undefeated teams still standing in the 6A boys ranks.
"It's always the same thing with this group — when they're up, they can take on anyone," Clackamas coach Thomas Kean said. "It's all about their mentality, and when it's good and it's on point, we've got a lot of quality in that squad.
"Sometimes they can take that for granted and that's when results start to slip. But tonight, coming in knowing Centennial is a good team and that they have to be at their best to get something from it, and they play like that. That's a good sign."
Centennial's only goal came on a Jair Diaz Navarra penalty kick in the 62nd minute that tied the score at 1-1. Other than that, there wasn't much for the Eagles (6-3, 1-1) to cheer about.
"The season's not over," Centennial's Angel Santiago Garcia said. "It's just one loss and I'm confident that we can do better in our next game and get back in the league race. This is just a wake-up call for us."
So, what was it that the Cavaliers did that gave Centennial trouble?
"What they did was pretty much just touch the ball," said Garcia, the senior midfielder and the Eagles' captain. "We just weren't as focused as we should have been, because we could have dominated the whole game."
Give and take
The teams actually looked as if they'd each been shot out of a cannon to start the game, sprinting from one end of the field to the other without either side generating a whole lot of quality scoring chances.
The Cavaliers were the first to break through in the 35th minute when the ball went from Keanu Cano to Sheakley, then to Farfan, then back to Sheakley, and, finally, back to Farfan and into the back of the net to make it 1-0.
"I saw Cooper make the run, so I just gave him the through ball," Farfan said. "Then I saw that he was going to cross because he had no angle to shoot it, so I kept on running and I was lucky to be there."
The soccer gods then smiled and frowned on both teams at the same time in the 62nd minute when Clackamas defender Andrew Huizar tackled Garcia inside the 16-yard box, leading to the penalty kick that tied the game.
What was strange was that instead of issuing a yellow card to No. 4 Huizar on the play, the referee booked No. 16 Colm Dady, who was given an earlier yellow card for taking out Centennial's Bryan Sanguino Virrueta with a hard tackle in the 17th minute.
Just when it looked as if Clackamas might have to play the final 18 minutes a man short, the Cavaliers got a reprieve because the officials had mistakenly booked No. 18 Reece Caldwell for the first-half yellow and not No. 16 Dady, so no need to play 11 on 10.
"It was bizarre," Centennial coach Todd Saks said. "They gave a yellow card to No. 16, who had already been booked for a yellow card in the first half, and they still played with 11 because they booked him as No. 18.
"So, Clackamas should have been short-handed. And I don't know if they still score those two goals or not, but they would have been down a man and they would have had to use different tactics."
On the other bench, Keen had a momentary panic attack when he saw Dady drawing a second yellow card for a foul Huizar had committed, but then he was relieved when he realized that the Cavaliers wouldn't have to play a man short.
"Justice was served, because it was a case of mistaken identity," Kean said. "I don't know what else you call it, but something happened there that makes me have some faith."
Major plot twist
The biggest turning point in the second half came in the 55th minute when Bessarab, the Eagles' sophomore keeper, came out to the top of the 16 to play a ball and then collided with Clackamas senior forward Zach Wilson and had to leave the game.
"It was a ball where the keeper is a bit hesitant to come out for it and any good striker is going to try and nip in there," Kean said. "Zach fouled the guy and that happens. Unfortunately, when it's a goalkeeper, it looks worse because they put their heads in places where the rest of us probably wouldn't.
"But, yeah, it's a foul and I feel bad for the kid. Obviously, no one wants to see that, especially in high school, but really in any game."
Enter Marcus, the freshman backup, who held his own right up to the point when Farfan stepped into his free kick in the 65th minute and broke the 1-1 tie.
"My keeper being knocked out of the game made a huge difference," Saks said. "The backup keeper is a freshman who has very little experience. Credit to him, he came in and handled it like a trooper, but I think that was a major game changer.
"If our starting keeper had played the entire second half, I think it would have been a different outcome because I felt we had the run of play in the second half. I'm going to tip my hat to Clackamas. I think they're a good team, but I think our goalkeeper being knocked out of the game was critical."
Tuesday's result also cast a different light on the Mt. Hood race after only two games with Central Catholic and Reynolds tied for first at 2-0, Clackamas and David Douglas tied for third at 1-0-1, Centennial alone in fifth at 1-1, and Barlow, Gresham, and Sandy bringing up the rear at 0-2.
Kean credits a difficult non-conference schedule, and games against 6A powers Grant and Forest Grove, in particular, with helping to make the Cavaliers "battle-hardened" at this stage of the season.
"It feels like we've been through a lot already," Kean said. "That helps in times like tonight when that penalty goes against you and a few heads drop, but then it's like, 'We've been here. We've done this. We've seen the worse.'
"Tonight was a thing of beauty and it's the stuff that I see them doing all the time. It's just a case of having them believe that they can do it. And then as I say, we play with anyone. Tonight proves it.
"But that was something else. That's like everything on the training ground coming together right there."
By Jim Beseda
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