GLADSTONE — One goal was all it took to send the Astoria boys soccer team to the first round of the state playoffs for the first time since 2013.
In a very tight match in which the Fishermen were out-shot by the Gladstone Gladiators 2 to 1, Astoria junior Christian Medina-Perez drew Gladiator keeper Andrew Prom off his line in the 37th minute, then Medina-Perez’s crossing pass was deflected by Prom to the waiting senior Trevor Byrd, who headed home the only goal of the afternoon for a 1-0 Astoria victory.
Both teams had additional chances, which kept Astoria goalkeeper Jake Hurd busy, but Hurd was able to pick up his third shutout in the last four games. The Fishermen are on a four-game win streak, having outscored the competition 11-1.
The momentum of Saturday’s match ebbed and flowed throughout the entire 80 minutes.
The Gladiator supporters erupted in cheers when Gladstone found the back of the net on a corner kick play in the 67th minute, only to see the flag up on the far side of the field signaling offside, the result of a disciplined Astoria team that held a strong defensive line as the ball was in play in front of the goal.
The Fishermen responded well to the Gladstone attack, with the Gladiators playing a strong defensive mindset, dropping eight and clogging the middle when defending.
During the final 10 minutes, Gladstone played at a frantic pace, forcing the ball forward, finding the Fishermen defenders swarming about getting a clear.
Hurd came up big in the 74th and again in the 76th minute with saves that secured the Fishermen a clean sheet, and a date against Stayton Wednesday. Stayton is the No. 2-ranked team at the 4A level, and the only team to beat No. 1 Seaside.
It was not Astoria’s prettiest of matches, but it was a complete match that saw solid play from all the Fishermen.
“The boys have come a long way from the summer and worked out a lot of bugs,” said Astoria coach Lee Cain. “We have some technically very talented players, and they’re trying hard and have responded well towards the tactical direction that we’ve wanted to go in.
“We had two limping players not at full potential and one player ineligible. So the game wasn’t our prettiest, and Gladstone played some determined ball, but luckily for us had some wide shots that might have tested Jake even more.”
But, “the win has to go to a team effort, with standout defensive performances from senior captain Jose Gonzalez and stalwart goalkeeping by Jake. They’ve gotten us to the playoffs and now we are going to get ready for what promises to be a very challenging game at Stayton, and the boys are excited. I think we will be ready for it and will play to our full potential as long as we are a healthy and complete team.”
Since 2014, the Fishermen were 0-2 in Regional Play-in contests, which included a 3-2 loss to Gladstone in 2014.
Astoria’s last appearance in the state playoffs was 2013 (a 3-2 loss to North Bend); their last win in the state playoffs is 2008 (2-1 over La Grande).
The No. 1-seed Seaside Gulls will host Philomath Wednesday. The Gulls topped Hillsboro (the No. 3-ranked 5A team), 4-1 in a nonleague match Saturday at Broadway Field.