COTTAGE GROVE – Forgive Carter Bengtson for not turning backflips after Cottage Grove’s 4-2 rain-soaked victory Saturday night over Estacada in a Class 4A state quarterfinal playoff game.
It was fellow junior teammate Armando Legorreta who did a backflip after connecting on a penalty kick with 35 seconds left, giving his team a two-goal lead and setting up another home game for the Lions on Tuesday against The Dalles, which advanced with a 2-1 win over Crook County.
The second half had been scoreless until the 24:54 mark, when Cottage Grove’s Hayes Valley controlled the ball off a corner kick and beat the Rangers keeper to give the Lions a 3-2 lead.
“We’ve been trying all year to get him to control the ball off his chest, and he finally did it when we needed it the most,” Cottage Grove coach Jaime Urenda said.
The first-year coach has been a shot in the arm to the school’s soccer program. He played for the Lions from 2002-06, when he was the program’s all-time leading scorer with 72 goals, including 29 in his junior season.
Now he has them two wins away from a state title.
“The crowd was phenomenal – we’ve never had a crowd that big, they really gave us a lift,” Urenda said.
The coach said that sophomore Emmanuel Rea’s rebound goal just 57 seconds before halftime, which tied the game 2-2, showed exactly what kind of team the Lions have been this season.
“All year long it seems like we’ve had an extra gear,” he said. “We’ve been down 2-1 several times and we find a way to get that big goal. We have a really resilient team.”
Meanwhile, Bengtson, a starting defender, was just glad to see a very long, very wet, very memorable day come to an end. It all started with a runaway victory in the Class 4A State Cross Country Championship. His time of 15:49.6 was 41 seconds better than his nearest challenger, and he became Cottage Grove’s first state cross country champion since the legendary Dyrol Burleson won in 1957.
“The weather was terrible, it was the worst day I’ve ever had to run in,” Bengtson said. “We had a couple of kids who slipped during warmups. … I’m just glad I didn’t fall over.”
It was a grueling day, to be sure, and a noticeably exhausted Bengtson said he was still trying to process everything he had just endured. Still, he said Saturday was one of the best days of his life.
“I knew I could do it, and I did what I had to do, but I feel like it should feel better,” he said. “But once it all sinks in, I think it might be one of my favorite days.
But there’s no rest for the weary … at least not very much.
“It’s straight into wrestling season now,” said Bengtson, who wrestled at 132 pounds last year but says he expects to move up to 145 this year. “I might take a week off.”
He has certainly earned that.
Cottage Grove hosts No. 10 The Dalles on Tuesday night at 6 p.m. The winner advances to the state title game on Saturday at Liberty High School.