Salem — We are to that point in the season where the crunch is on for a conference championship and that ever elusive state championship. For South Salem and McKay, this came in the form of their matchup on Tuesday at South Salem High School, with the winner having a chance to still catch West Salem for a conference championship, the loser being eliminated from contention, and a tie knocking them both out of the picture.
McKay started off fast, coming out swinging against the Saxons in the early going of the match and getting opportunities early on. Ismael Morales, a senior looking to bring McKay a conference championship, put the Scots one step closer to that goal with his netter in the first half, giving the Scots a 1-0 advantage over South Salem. After some hard fighting, a free kick by the Saxons turned into an aerial one-timer goal for Braque Pike, knotting this game up at 1-1 in the 38th minute. The Scots and Saxons would enter the half knotted up 1-1.
South Salem turned the tables in the second half, firing seemingly at will while playing some stiff defense on the Scots offensive attack. The Saxons had numerous attempts at the goal go high, wide, too slow, and too fast, but with persistence comes triumph as Julian Rivas Delgado picked up a deflected ball and drilled it past backup goalkeeper Andy Canchola for the goal in the 66th minute and the Saxons had the lead 2-1. In the last 10 minutes or so, McKay fought extremely hard to get the tying goal, but the South Salem defense had an answer each time and the Saxons would hang on 2-1 and keep their Mountain Valley Conference title hopes alive while simultaneously ending McKay’s. Adding insult to injury for McKay, starting goalkeeper Uriel Bravo and midfielder Angel Altamirano both went down with injuries that kept them out of action for the rest of the game.
Surviving a late McKay push, gaining a comeback victory, and the thought of still winning a conference championship brought a morale boost post game to a tired Saxons team, who fought to the end of a tight game and kept their hopes alive. Goal scorers Braque Pike and Julian Rivas Delgado talked post game about the keys to the win and how to prepare for a chance on Friday against Bend to clinch a share of the conference title.
Julian Rivas Delgado on the Saxons executing the comeback goals, “Our strategy was to attack and contain as a team, so if they have the ball do our job as a team and if we have the ball then we open up and press as a team. This was our best defensive performance of the year potentially.”
Braque Pike on taking care of business on Friday against Bend, “We just have to keep doing what were doing. We need to work on getting fast starts because we started slow today and they scored early, so if we pounce on them early like we did in the second half of this game then we should be good.”
Following the tough loss, McKay Head Coach Juan Llamas talked about it openly, discussing the Scots loss and what he believed lead to it.
Coach Juan Lllamas, “We had two great opportunities in the first half and if we would have executed on those I think this game would’ve turned out completely different. We were up 1-0 and we had one on ones but we didn’t make it. South Salem is a scrappy team and they pressured, and I think that’s where my players started to get frustrated and their Coach obviously did a good job of setting up the team to counter the way we play as they were scouting us against West Salem. Its obviously frustrating losing Uriel and Angel but tomorrow we have to bounce back in practice and get ready for Sprague on Thursday.”