Coach Dave Ellis said freshman center back Jacob Hernandez had a strong performance in Tuesday's game at Newport. (File photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

The Philomath High School boys soccer team fought to the end in a physical battle at Newport Tuesday evening with the Cubs coming out on top on the scoreboard, 3-1.

The two soccer rivals played hard throughout the evening with Newport vaulting out to a 3-0 lead in the first half. But Philomath countered in the second half and scored within the first five minutes before keeping up pressure the rest of the way.

Philomath coach Dave Ellis sees the team turning a corner as far as growth.

“I felt we learned some stuff about ourselves,” Ellis said. “We were a better team walking off the field than the team that walked on.”

Newport (5-0-1 overall, 1-0-1 Oregon West) took a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute in traffic in front of the net. The Cubs scored their second goal in the 30th on what Ellis described as a “beautiful header.” And then a tough one for Philomath to endure occurred with about two minutes remaining before halftime on a shot from roughly 22 yards.

Despite the three-goal deficit, Ellis said he felt confident that the Warriors could create problems for the home team in the second half.

“We talked about how we can defend and pinch a goal and that if we pinch a goal, that Newport would fall apart — not necessarily lose the game but they would struggle,” Ellis said.

The coach’s comments appeared to be on the mark. With a strong wind now at its back, Philomath got on the scoreboard within the first five minutes of the second half. On the play, sophomore Caleb Backcock did a long throw-in, which bounced in Newport’s box while junior Silas Pittman positioned himself.

“Silas was able to fly in and flip the ball over the goalkeeper with his head,” Ellis said. “It was 3-1 and after that, they lost their composure.”

Philomath increased its pressure on the Cubs with a more physical approach and about 15 minutes into the half, a Newport player was hit with a red card. Ellis said he didn’t see exactly what happened but moments later, the Cubs head coach received a yellow card for dissent.

“There were hard fouls both ways and they got a handful of yellows,” Ellis said. “Silas got a yellow real late.”

Philomath created scoring opportunities on four or five occasions in the second half, Ellis said.

“We went 3-4-3 for the last 10 minutes trying to get a goal,” Ellis said. “So I pulled one of my defenders and put them up at forward just to be more aggressive and we had half chances but they managed it.”

Near the end of the game, PHS freshman Jacob Hernandez got caught in the middle of a situation when Newport players cleared its bench and came onto the field.

“I’ve never had a freshman play center back — it’s the hardest, most-demanding position on the field,” Ellis said in reference to Hernandez. “It requires the most concentration and if you mess up, everybody sees it. But he just killed it out there and had a great game. He was a warrior … at the end, I don’t know what happened.”

Ellis said he believes another red card was issued to a Newport player — a lot happened with the commotion — and in addition, the Cubs coach got his second yellow for a red card because his players left the bench.

“It was just kind of an ugly end to what was a spirited game,” said Ellis, who received a yellow card himself about 25 minutes into the game. “I’m really proud of my boys; they managed a very difficult situation. We went out in the second half and we got a goal and we played much, much better.”

Philomath (1-4, 1-1) is scheduled to play at 4 p.m. Thursday at home against North Marion.