While entering uncharted territory, few can argue whether the Taft High boys soccer team belongs in the Final Four of the 2019 Class 3A/2A/1A OSAA State Boys Soccer Championships.
However, historically speaking, the other three schools might be asking, “What are you doing here?”
On the surface, a better question might be, “How is Taft the underdog in this beauty pageant?”
With a gaudy 17-0 record and lofty scoring advantage of 117-9 this season, it’s statistically relevant to assume the upstart Tigers will feel right at home and belong in the fray when they take the pitch at 6 p.m. Tuesday at top-seeded Catlin Gabel to determine one State finalist. Second-seeded Oregon Episcopal will host No. 3 Brookings-Harbor at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Liberty High School in Hillsboro to unveil the other combatant for Saturday’s State championship.
Delve deeper, and it’s evident the Special District 2 champion Tigers’ No. 4 seeding is appropriate.
Tuesday’s semifinal opponent, Catlin Gabel, is the defending State champion and also undefeated at 17-0 after outscoring its opposition 104-5 and going 9-0 in winning the Special District 1 title.
To do that, the Eagles twice shut out State No. 2 seed and SD2 runner-up Oregon Episcopal in the regular season and 1-0 in last year’s State title game despite the Aardvarks’ rich history of having won six OSAA boys soccer titles beginning in 2005 — with a runner-up finish sandwiched in between.
The two Portland private boarding schools — Catlin Gabel in the West Haven-Sylvan area and Oregon Episcopal in Raleigh Hills — have each won two State titles since 2013 and reached the final game three and four times, respectively.
Despite being the only semifinalist with a defeat, Oregon Episcopal is 14-2-1 with the fewest goals scored (81) and most allowed (12) this season, but is seeded second on strength of schedule.
Photos by Lon French
On to third-seeded Brookings-Harbor . . .
A public school that combines student-athletes from the communities of Brookings and Harbor in southwestern Oregon, the Special District 4 champion Bruins are also 17-0 and waltzed through the season by outscoring their opposition 124-5.
Brookings-Harbor trailed only Special District 6 champion Riverside, another perennial power, in goals scored this season (134) and tied Catlin Gabel in goals-against (5). Oregon Episcopal eliminated 2017 State champion Riverside 3-2 in overtime in Saturday’s quarterfinals.
Making its deepest dive ever into the postseason, Taft faces a formidable challenge. Catlin Gabel has pitched 12 shutouts this year, including 6-0 and 9-0 victories to reach the State semis. The Tigers possess 10 shutouts of their own, however, and a 2-1 quarterfinal home victory over fifth-seeded and perennial State participant Riverdale, which handed Oregon Episcopal its regular-season tie.
With three unbeaten teams, a combined record of 65-2-1 and scoring margin of 426-31, there’s little question the stage has been set with this year’s four most worthy semifinalists.
The Final Four will undeniably be represented by the Big Four in small-school Oregon soccer.
Class 3A/2A/1A Boys Soccer
Special District 1
|Catlin Gabel (3A)||9-0||17-0||104||5||1|
|Oregon Episcopal (3A)||7-1-1||14-2-1||81||12||2|
|De La Salle Catholic (3A)||6-3||10-6||60||25||12|
|Portland Adventist (3A)||3-4-2||6-7-2||26||36||29|
|Westside Christian (3A)||3-6||4-10||25||57||39|
|Horizon Christian, Tualatin (3A)||2-4-3||6-5-3||42||46||25|
|Mannahouse Christian (2A)||2-5-2||4-8-2||33||71||34|
|Faith Bible (2A)||1-7-1||2-10-1||19||43||41|
|Portland Christian (2A)||0-9||0-15||7||116||51|
Catlin Gabel Eagles
Coach: Peter Shulman
Oregon Episcopal Aardvarks
Coach: David Rosenberg
Special District 2
|Western Christian/Perrydale (2A)||9-3-2||10-6-2||61||28||17|
|Blanchet Catholic (3A)||5-5-4||6-6-4||34||31||31|
|Salem Academy (3A)||2-11-1||2-11-1||12||109||49|
Coach: Ryan Ulicni
|21||Alex Del Valle||M/D||11|
Special District 4
|Umpqua Valley Christian (1A)||11-3||12-4||78||20||10|
|Coquille/Myrtle Point (2A)||7-7||7-7||25||42||27|
|South Umpqua (3A)||2-11-1||2-11-1||20||90||46|
|Gold Beach/Pacific (2A)||1-12-1||1-12-1||5||69||50|
Coach: Jess Beaman