By Dave Ball | Photos by Dave Ball
MILWAUKIE — La Salle Prep is the reigning 5A boys soccer state champion, and early this season the Falcons are showing themselves to be a favorite for a repeat run to the top.
The Falcons improved to 5-0-0 after a dominant 6-1 home win over Hood River Valley in a battle of early-season unbeaten teams Tuesday night.
The visiting Eagles put on the pressure shortly after kickoff, earning a series of early corner kicks. Hood River Valley was first on the scoreboard less than 10 minutes into play when Eric Langlouis, an exchange student from Germany, won a ball along the sideline and found teammate Milo Clarkson flashing down the middle lane.
“I got that outside line, stopped for a second and saw Milo coming in from behind,” Langlouis said. “Scoring first was the best thing that could happen, and we kept going good for the next five minutes or so, then our motivation went down and our mindset just wasn’t right.”
La Salle Prep pulled even a few minutes later when senior striker Mizael Harris used the outside edge of his foot to punch a shot inside the far post.
“It was on a tough angle, and I had two people running at me, so I chipped it over them,” Harris said. “It was a slow start on our end. We had to pick up our intensity.”
The teams took turns attacking for a go-ahead goal with center back Jeffrey Richter creating a long shot chance for the Falcons with a free kick from beyond the centerline. His high-looping ball took a high hop in front of the goal, forcing Hood River Valley keeper Hugh Dalbey into the air to pull it down in front of two onrushing attackers.
The Eagles countered with Clarkson making a run down the sideline before leaving the ball for Langlouis, who looped behind him to send another dangerous cross into the box. Jaden Dubon got his head on the ball only to see it squirt wide of the post.
La Salle Prep had the next chance when Harris made a deep run down the left side before centering a roller into the box. Freshman teammate Vance Sheffield deflected the ball on goal only to see Dalbey drop down low for the save.
Just moments after a restart, Harris had the ball on his feet just outside the 18-yard box and placed a perfect shot into the top left corner for what proved to be the winning goal.
Hood River Valley threatened to tie the score when Dubon made a run into the box and attempted to punch the ball past Richter to set up a 1-on-1 with the keeper. But the Falcons senior used some quick feet to steal possession and put on a spin move to evade another Eagle in the backfield.
He passed the ball ahead, then zipped down the center of the field and got it back near the center circle. Richter used a quick one-touch pass to find Sheffield, who buried a shot near-post from 20 yards for a 3-1 Falcons halftime lead.
“He tried to tuck the ball around me, but I got to it, picked my head up and saw Vance making a great run,” Richter said.
Hood River Valley had one more chance to climb back into contention when Dubon got inside the 18-yard box early in the second half. But as he tried to turn and face the goal, La Salle Prep defender Aidan O’Brien slid down low and sent the ball far out to the side.
Barely a minute passed before the ball shifted into the Falcons’ attacking zone, and Sheffield timed out a high bounce and headed the ball inside the far post for a commanding 4-1 lead.
After being on the defensive over the first 10 minutes, La Salle Prep’s backline did not surrender many quality chances the rest of the way.
“They played a two-up formation, and we haven’t seen much of that,” Richter said. “We had to shift around some, protect our wings and do some learning during the game.”
Harris would get the hat trick in the 56th minute, and Johannes Gikas notched the final goal with a low strike from the top of the box.
The Falcons have wins over four playoff teams from 2019, including reigning big-school champion Franklin. The schedule remains tough with road games ahead against 6A powers Forest Grove and Jesuit before embarking on Northwest Oregon Conference play when the calendar flips to October.
“This one means a lot,” Harris said. “Every win gets us closer to being on our home field for the playoffs.”
La Salle Prep 6, Hood River Valley 1
Hood River Valley – 1 – 0 — 1
La Salle Prep – 3 – 3 — 6
HRV — Milo Clarkson (assist Eric Langlouis), 8:44
LSP — Mizael Harris, 11:51
LSP — Harris, 23:47
LSP — Vance Sheffield (assist Jeffrey Richter), 36:29
LSP — Sheffield, 43:14
LSP — Harris, 56:33
LSP — Johannes Gikas, 64:19
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