The Centennial High boys soccer team gambled Monday, installing a new, defensive formation to take on Timberline, the defending state champ that was perfect through eight games.
The move paid off as the Patriots (8-0-1, 5-0-1 5A SIC) hunkered down defensively and capitalized on a pair of counterattacks for a 2-1 victory at Timberline High to take over first place in the 5A SIC standings and remain the only unbeaten team left in the conference.
“It’s huge,” Centennial senior Bekir Cinac said. “It’s motivation, confidence knowing this is the best team, knowing that no one can get in our way.”
The Patriots installed a 5-3-2 formation to try to contain the Wolves (8-1-0, 5-1-0 5A SIC), who averaged 4.5 goals entering Monday. Timberline maintained the majority of the possession and created the majority of the chances, firing 17 shots.
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But Centennial’s back line forced many of those shots to come from distance, and goalie TJ Terrell made nine saves to preserve the win.
“We knew they were a good team, and I think they outplayed us today,” Centennial coach Logan Emory said. “But I think we were able to put numbers behind the ball, and it’s just rolling your sleeves up.
“We all want to play pretty. We all want to play like Barcelona. But you deal with what you have. And right now, we’ve got guys capable of rolling up their sleeves and getting behind the ball and staying organized and communicating.”
Centennial drew first blood when forward Mannasse Mbuyi gathered his own blocked shot and fed Ethan Renshaw at the top of the 18-yard box. Renshaw then rocketed a shot to the near side and past Timberline goalkeeper Parker Billings in the 34th minute.
“It’s all work, all motivation,” Emory said. “He got a nice little touch on it, and I don’t know how the ball got in. But it did, and I’ll take it.”
Centennial stretched its lead to 2-0 in the 63rd minute when Timberline defender Eric Bambic tackled Justus Kjellander in the box, drawing a penalty. Centennial senior Bekir Cinac then converted what proved to be the game-winning goal.
Timberline responded when Cole Fuller collected the ball from a scramble inside the 6-yard box and poked it into the right side of the net. The Wolves’ threatened in the final five minutes as Rowan Pierson hit the crossbar in the 80th minute, and then Terrell tipped Josh Fishburn’s stoppage-time shot up, off and over the crossbar for his final save.
“He was a lot more active,” Cinac said of Terrell. “He’s got an injured collarbone still. But he pushed through it. He’s a fighter.”