CORVALLIS — As a steady rain drenched players on Crescent Valley’s turf field late in the second half on Tuesday night, Philomath’s chances of pulling out a victory over North Marion in a Class 4A boys soccer semifinal started to feel pretty slim with the Huskies clinging to a 1-0 lead.
But Philomath turned its fortunes around in the 78th minute on a goal that could be attributed to a lesson learned — always play to the whistle.
“By playing to the whistle, it allows you to get an advantage sometimes,” senior Mark Grimmer said. “They stopped and I kept playing so it allowed me to break free for a 1-on-1 with the goalie and I was able to slot it past him that one time.”
Grimmer’s goal sent the game past regulation time and in the second overtime, PHS senior Dylan Bell hit a bender on a free kick from 35 yards. The Warriors got the win, 2-1, and will play for the Class 4A state title on Saturday against Hidden Valley.
On the game-tying goal late in the second half, a collision on the field prompted some players to hesitate in anticipation of a whistle.
“Mark picked up the ball and was through three three players before they even realized the play was still going,” PHS coach Dave Ellis said. “That’s on them for not being aware and understanding the rules.”
Knowing such facets of the game plays an important role in Philomath’s presence on the pitch.
“When I showed up four years ago, we talked about play the whistle,” Ellis said. “Don’t ever assume it’s a foul … you always play until they tell you to stop.”
Grimmer is a player that takes that type of knowledge to heart.
“He’s a smart kid, he’s a student of the game, he looks for every advantage,” Ellis said. “That was a goal that was created by the fact that he’s the smartest player on the field.”
PHS freshman Silas Pittman helped in the moment by reacting on a hustle play.
“He was able to distract them by going through the 50-50 ball,” Grimmer said, “and so I was able to go through and just continue playing.”
Tied 1-1 at the end of regulation, the rules call for two 10-minute overtime periods to be played. Neither team managed much in the first OT, other than a Bell shot from 40 yards that sailed less than a foot above the crossbar in the 83rd minute. But in the second overtime, Bell came through.
In the game’s 97th minute, the official gave a North Marion player a yellow card to set up the free kick opportunity.
“Evan (Munn, assistant coach) just told me to wrap it around to the back post because then anybody who gets a touch — that’s going in the goal,” Bell said. “It worked out. Nobody got a touch on it though and it went in by itself.”
Originally on the play, Philomath players were setting up on the edge of the 18-yard box. But Ellis quickly moved them in.
“We wanted as many heads in the way so if it glanced off them, if it glanced off us, it was likely to go in,” Ellis said. “Or, if it doesn’t touch anyone, it still hits the net, but the goalkeeper has to respect every head it can possibly hit. And so it’s a nightmare for goalkeepers to defend and boy was that one hit well … he hit it on a rope and bent it.”
Added Ellis, “It was a nasty, nasty shot. Dylan’s got skills; he’s one hell of a player.”
Philomath has now survived stiff challenges back-to-back with the late goal against McLoughlin in addition to the victory over North Marion. The players have shown the ability to perform under pressure, trailing the Huskies 1-0 after Aden Carrillo scored in the 68th minute.
“I was definitely very concerned because we weren’t having a lot of chances in that second half … it was just playing in the middle,” Grimmer said. “I didn’t know if we were going to be able to pull it off but just going through and not letting it get to you no matter what and just playing to the end of the game is just really what helped us get through and get the goal and going into overtime.”
Bell knew Philomath’s attackers could create something late.
“I just told everybody to keep our heads up because we have Mark and we have Silas and those guys can score on anybody anyday,” Bell said. “I just had all the faith that they would get a goal eventually.”
Ellis made a strategic move with about 6 minutes left in the game with Philomath still down 1-0 by bringing goalkeeper Teddy Benbow downfield from the net for an extra advantage on offense.
“Throughout my career, I’ve brought keepers home lots of times,” Ellis said. “Even a good player has a hard time hitting a ball in an open net from 50 yards.”
Besides the on-the-field strategy involved with such a move, Ellis said it also sends an important message to his team — that the Warriors would be aggressive to try to win the game.
“I told them we weren’t playing for PKs (penalty kicks), we weren’t going to play it safe, we’re going to go for it,” Ellis said. “We’re going to throw people forward, we’re going to take chances and if we lost the game taking chances, I was fine with that. But I wasn’t going to lose it being scared.”
Philomath’s conditioning was another factor late in the contest.
“We got Bill (Callender, assistant) out here … he gets us so in shape, man, it’s amazing,” Bell said. “Nobody can hang with us for the full time because we’re still going strong at the very end when they’re all dropping.”
Philomath (16-1) will now face Hidden Valley, a playoff surprise as a No. 9 seed. The Mustangs (13-4) had to play their way into the state playoffs with a 3-0 victory over Seaside in a play-in game. In the tournament, victories have been over Marshfield (3-1), Ontario (1-0 in overtime) — the team that upset No. 1 Stayton in the first round — and Molalla (4-3). The game is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. at Liberty High School in Hillsboro.
Grimmer has scored in every game this season and now has 29 (if you’re counting the practice games in the jamboree, that number would be 30). Grimmer had the only goal in 1-0 wins over North Marion on Aug. 31, Stayton on Sept. 30 and McLoughlin on Nov. 6. But the thriller on Tuesday night against the Huskies tops the list.
Can Grimmer’s improbable goal-scoring streak continue?
“Hopefully, one more,” said Ellis.
Philomath 2, North Marion 1 (OT)
Tuesday, Nov. 9, at Crescent Valley HS, Corvallis
|North Marion (11-3-3)||0||1||0||0||0|
|Second Half: 1, North Marion, Aden Carrillo, 68th minute; 2, Philomath, Mark Grimmer (Silas Pittman), 78th minute.|
|Second Overtime: 3, Philomath, Dylan Bell, 97th minute.|
Class 4A State Playoffs
Wednesday, Nov. 3
(16) Ontario 1, Stayton 0 (PK 5-3)
(9) Hidden Valley 3, (8) Marshfield 1
(12) Molalla 3, (5) Valley Catholic 0
(4) Henley 4, (13) Tillamook 0
(3) Phoenix 7, (14) La Grande 0
(6) North Marion 3, (11) Sisters 2
(7) McLoughlin 2, (10) Cottage Grove 0
(2) Philomath 5, (15) Estacada 0
Friday, Nov. 5-Saturday, Nov. 6
Hidden Valley 1, Ontario 0 (OT)
Molalla 5, Henley 3 (OT)
North Marion 1, Phoenix 0 (PK 4-3)
Philomath 1, McLoughlin 0
Tuesday, Nov. 9
Hidden Valley 4, Molalla 3
Philomath 2, North Marion 1 (OT)
Saturday, Nov. 13
At Liberty HS, Hillsboro
Hidden Valley vs. Philomath, 4 p.m.
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