COTTAGE GROVE – Within minutes of each other, something terrific – and something terrible – both happened Tuesday night at Cottage Grove High School.
First, the host Lions (14-2-1) continued their improbable run through the Class 4A boys soccer playoffs, defeating The Dalles 3-1 to reach Saturday’s state championship game against Newport (14-1-2), also a 3-1 winner in its state semifinal against North Marion.
But a big black cloud has been hovering over Cottage Grove’s victory. Leading 3-1 with less than 10 minutes to play, a very tense and competitive game suddenly wasn’t fun and games anymore. Armando Legorreta, one of the Lions’ best players, was assessed a yellow card. He angrily pleaded his case with the referee, then as players from both teams gathered around, Legorreta was pushed by an opposing player. He responded by throwing a punch, and both benches emptied onto the field.
Legorreta was given a second yellow card, which equals a red card, rendering him ineligible to play in the state final.
“Armando is one of our best strikers, but you know what, guys will step up, like they have all season,” Lions coach Jaime Urenda said moments after the game. “It’s an unfortunate situation, you don’t want to see that on a soccer field, of course. We’re going to move on.
“It was a competitiveness situation – we don’t want to lose, they don’t want to lose – but we have to keep our composure, and they know that. We work really hard to be a good team. But in that moment of competing they are going to do whatever it takes to get that win.”
Some of the details are as hazy as the dense fog that blanketed Cottage Grove’s Don King Field on Tuesday night for much of the game. Once order was restored, officials huddled up for nearly 30 minutes before resuming play with just over 9 minutes remaining. The game concluded without further incident.
The injured player for The Dalles appeared to be knocked cold for several minutes. Eventually, he walked off the field on his own power, but soon afterward, he was transported to a local hospital.
Hayes Valley scored the game’s first goal at the 4:07 mark of the first half off a throw-in, then the Lions made it 2-1 in the second half on Rogelio Soto-Cruz’s rebound goal. Valley then scored his team’s third goal with 12:24 remaining.
Defense was the name of the game on this night, though. Spearheading that effort was goalkeeper Jace Meyer, one of just four seniors on the roster.
“That save that Jace had in the last few minutes was the save of the game,” Urenda said. “I don’t have words to say what a leader he has been and what a pleasure it’s been to have him this year.
“The whole team, I told them all year that defense would win them a championship, and the offense will take care of itself.”
When Urenda played at Cottage Grove from 2002-06, he played on teams that reached the state semifinals and quarterfinals. As an assistant coach in 2008, the Lions won their only state soccer championship.
Now, he’s one step away from another one.
“These guys are a real team, they look out for each other,” Urenda said. “We don’t have one single player, we have 11 guys – and now we’re one win away.”
It’s rare to hear about fights breaking out in high school sporting events. It’s especially rare to hear about it happening twice in one week in Oregon.
On Friday night, South Medford held a 34-0 lead over Jefferson with 7:02 left in the second quarter when the benches emptied after a fight between two players took place. Officials decided to call the game.
Cottage Grove and Newport face off on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Liberty High School in Hillsboro.