Philomath senior Kamilla Grimmer scores one of her four goals Tuesday against North Marion during the Warriors' 6-2 victory. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Philomath scored 45 seconds into the game, senior Kamilla Grimmer had a four-goal performance and the team’s defense stifled a North Marion squad capable of lighting up the scoreboard in a key 6-2 win Tuesday afternoon.

The victory served as revenge for a 2-1 loss earlier this season and very likely means the two schools will share this season’s Oregon West Conference title.

Beyond the offensive attack that produced second-half fireworks, the numerous defensive plays that frustrated the Huskies time and time again and the general importance of such an impressive win late in the season, stood junior goalkeeper Heidi Bacho.

The majority of Philomath’s victories this season have come by five-plus goals so Bacho’s contributions out of her position often blend into the background. She rose to the occasion in Thursday’s win with several key saves that prevented North Marion from finding any semblance of momentum.

“She turned away a couple of close-range shots and kept us in the game,” PHS coach Mat Phelps said. “And she was aggressive coming out on some of the through balls to pick them up so she did great.”

Philomath junior goalkeeper Heidi Bacho reaches high on a North Marion shot attempt in the second half. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Bacho doesn’t shy away from the physicality that comes along with playing in net.

“I’m not afraid to get hit by the ball and if I get hurt, I’ll take it,” Bacho said when asked why she enjoys the position. “I like sacrificing myself for the team and I’ll put myself on the line for them and do my best. That’s what drives me during the games.”

Unlike those numerous blowouts, Bacho thrives on what’s required of a goalkeeper against the better teams.

“I’m thankful to have such a rock-solid defense but with a quicker or faster team, I’m always just looking,” Bacho said. “I’m watching the rest of the players and not just the person with the ball — always trying to cover every opportunity that a team may have to score on me.”

On the other end, Grimmer was putting together her second four-goal game of the season — something accomplished back in the team’s Aug. 29 season opener.

“This is a big ego boost … it just really picks up our spirits and shows us we’ve got a chance to get this,” Grimmer said following the win. “It helps our confidence and shows what we’re capable of doing.”

PHS junior Sophia Bauer controls the ball vs. the Huskies. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Philomath came out hard in the opening minute with junior Sophia Bauer nearly scoring for the quick lead. But as it turned out, the Warriors got their quick lead anyway when Grimmer scored after receiving the ball from sophomore Ana Candanoza.

“We knew we needed to come out quick,” Grimmer said. “Finally, we had the energy to do it because we always talk about it … I’m really proud of us.”

Phelps had a strategic approach to how the first goal found its way into the net.

“We have practiced it all year and we knew that they played short goal kicks,” Phelps said. “So we went to force the ball back in the middle, we won it and found feet and it was a great shot by Kam.”

Three minutes later, Philomath came up with an important play on the other end when North Marion senior Caile Lader had an opportunity at close range. Junior Isabel Morales-Marquez disrupted the play and cleared to end the threat.

It was one of several defensive plays that turned away and frustrated North Marion’s attackers. Junior Melea Lattin had a strong presence on the back line with a number of key plays.

“She saved us many times,” Phelps said. “She’s got deceptive speed, she’s in the right place and she just stays calm and clears them out for us.”

Philomath’s Aspen Russell goes for the header while teammate Melea Lattin looks on. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Junior Aspen Russell, junior Natalie Dunn, junior Kateri Pindell and Morales-Marquez also had moments during a few of the more serious North Marion offensives.

Philomath had a few other opportunities in the first half but the score remained 1-0 at the intermission.

“We felt like there were some things we could do better just getting connected,” Phelps said about halftime adjustments. “We feel like we’re a better team when we play to each other’s feet and control the ball rather than just kicking it and running … we did a little bit too much of that in the first half.”

North Marion came out with energy for the second half with an all-out assault on the PHS defense. In the 43rd minute, the Huskies’ Lader put the ball in play with a corner kick and in the scrum, senior Domnikka Lyon took a shot that hit the crossbar and bounced straight down where Bacho secured the ball.

But the Huskies were able to finish less than a minute later when freshman Victoria Valenzuela scored with an assist by Lader. The game was tied, 1-1, just 4 minutes into the second half.

Philomath countered with a near-goal from Grimmer on a cross from junior Petra Hernandez just seconds later that forced North Marion’s goalkeeper to make a diving stop.

PHS junior Isabel Morales-Marquez kicks the ball downfield. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

In the 46th minute, Huskies junior Isabel Doubrava had a 1-on-1 opportunity against Philomath’s keeper and Bacho won the confrontation with a save from 5 feet to keep the game tied. The Warriors regained the lead in the 49th minute on a Grimmer goal with the assist by Bauer.

The game remained 2-1 in favor of Philomath for several minutes until the 68th when Bell scored with the help of a fortuitous bounce. On the goal, the ball had gone fairly high in the air and while Grimmer and North Marion’s goalkeeper positioned themselves to make a play, the ball bounced into the net.

The goal represented the beginning of a scoring barrage to end the game. Philomath scored in the 73rd minute on what had the appearance of a bizarre goal. The ball was sitting just outside the top of the 18-yard box and North Marion’s goalkeeper had it in her sights.

“She couldn’t pick it up and then her teammate, like, passed it to her … then Petra got in there and just hit it a little out,” Grimmer said. “I just had to take a two-touch shot really quick because everybody was just so confused and took advantage of the situation.”

Three minutes later, sophomore Logan Cook scored on a rebound off the goalkeeper following a Grimmer shot. North Marion countered with a goal less than 30 seconds later off the foot of Lader.

But Philomath put an exclamation mark on the victory with Grimmer’s fourth goal in the 79th minute. Pindell was credited with the assist.

Adding another layer to the impressive nature of Grimmer’s four-goal feat is the fact that she’s playing through pain that surfaces from an old injury.

“Last year, I had my rib injury … I just need to wrap it up and I should be good,” she said. “But it acts up in some games and this was one of them.”

Philomath sophomore Logan Cook celebrates after scoring a second-half goal to put the Warriors ahead, 5-1. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

In the final analysis, Philomath simply executed its second-half plan to a T after the Huskies had tied the game.

The Warriors now have a chance to win the conference title in a non-COVID year for the first time since 2019. (Philomath did finish first during the abbreviated pandemic season in spring of 2021).

“It’s a really good opportunity because I don’t think we’ve won league since I’ve been in high school … it’s been frustrating to come in second every year,” Bacho said. “I’m glad we beat North Marion — it feels good.”

Philomath (10-2 overall, 7-1 Oregon West) and North Marion (9-3, 7-1) will likely finish tied atop the standings to finish the season with inferior opponents the rest of the way.

“I’d love it if it’s goal differential — then we’ve got it. But if it’s the OSAA ranking, we just have to see where the computer puts us,” Phelps said, responding to a question about whether or not any tiebreakers come into play if the two schools end up tied for first.

As of Tuesday night, North Marion was ranked No. 3 and Philomath No. 4 in OSAA rankings. Even if the two teams win out and end up as conference co-champions, they will both bypass the play-in round and advance directly to the state playoffs. The top two teams in each conference earn automatic berths.

The Warriors would likely host a first-round game on Halloween afternoon.

But before any of that happens, Phelps says the team can’t get ahead of itself. Philomath will close out the regular season with its senior game at 4 p.m. Thursday on the home pitch against Sweet Home before heading over to Stayton for a 6 p.m. matchup on Oct. 24. The Warriors beat both of those opponents the first time around, 8-0.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.