Column: A golden era comes to an end

There aren’t many things that a good breakfast — of bacon, eggs, hash browns and a cup of orange juice — a good night sleep, family and a conversation can’t fix.

For Newport’s senior goalkeeper Luis Reyes, that was the remedy to get past the Newport boys’ soccer loss 2-1 in the 4A state quarterfinals to Madras, ending the Cubs’ chances at winning a state title for a third straight season.

“The loss hurt because that was a bad way to get knocked out knowing that we were a better team and that we could’ve beat them at our house,” Reyes said.

Playing on a field that Reyes described as “having holes, sprinklers and more holes” proved to be a challenge for the Cubs who play most of their games on field turf. Madras was able to get away with a physical brand of soccer that overstepped the line between aggressive and dangerous.

“Late challenges, dangerously reckless, careless tackles,” Reyes said. “Clear calls that should’ve been called that were missed.”

“I’ve never seen a crew lose a game in regards to player safety,” said head coach Ollie Richardson. “They were unprepared to ref that caliber of a game.”

Nearly two years after Luis Reyes stopped two penalty kicks against Madras to capture the state title, the White Buffalos broke the scoreless tie by sneaking a ball under the diving Reyes late in the first half. A defensive lapse resulted in another goal from Mardas in the second half.

“I second guessed myself and let the ball go by,” Reyes said. “Lack of marking (caused the second) they got an easy one on us.”

Oscar Jimenez would score his third goal of the playoffs with 11 seconds left in the game.

“I was proud of our guys battling to the very end,” Richardson said. “Not one player quit, they were coming at them, they kept competing.”

Tough way for the champs to go out.

The loss just didn’t end the Cubs’ season two games shy of playing for a third consecutive state title. It was an end of an era. Seniors like Reyes, Jose Gonzalez, Tryston Wolf and Kai Daniels all on the varsity roster as freshmen, which was also Ollie Richardson’s first year as the head coach.

And what a four-year run that group had. The Cubs won 66 percent of their games (46-18-5 record), they won a league title in 2016, made four playoff appearances, went 11-2 in the postseason and captured consecutive state titles in 2016 and 2017.

Newport soccer is not the same because of what that group accomplished.

“I’m proud of what we did,” Reyes said. “It’s a story worth telling over and over again.”

In my — albeit brief — time covering sports I’ve been able to cover some really good, even teams — The Khiry Shelton-led Oregon State soccer team, three years of OSU baseball and the year that the Beavers made the NCAA tournament. As good as those teams were, the last games of the season had a familiar outcome, a season loss.

That all changed on a Saturday afternoon last November when Newport stunned an undefeated Stayton squad that had already beaten Cubs twice that season. That capped off a postseason where the Cubs won four consecutive road games over four conference champs and two undefeated teams.

Newport would lose 12 players from that team, many of them starters who were very productive players. A drop off was expected, and in terms of wins, there was. But as the season came to a close and Newport needed wins for a postseason berth, they got them.

What stands out about that team, that run and even this year’s team is continuing to battle. They took the early season lumps and continued to grind so that they would be playing their best soccer at the end of the season — when it really matters — and kept their composure throughout the process.

When they were down against two goals against Gladstone and a goal against No. 2 Ontario, the team battled back from being down to walk off the field victoriously. The way champions do.

A third straight state title wasn’t going to validate the success of the program. That already happened. If anything, a trip to the quarterfinals this season only validates what this era was about.

“They’ve completely changed the culture and tradition here,” Richardson said. “When you play at Newport, you’re expected to compete for league and state titles.”


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