$n$ PREP FOOTBALL — W-P survives St. George's in District 9 playoffs

The Waitsburg-Prescott team plays Northwest Christian for the No. 1 or No. 2 seed to state today.

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As the Saint George's goalkeeper peels himself off the turf and a defender steps in to the net to retrieve the ball, Waitsburg-Prescott's Omar Virgen (10) celebrates a second-half goal.

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Waitsburg-Prescott's Omar Virgen (10) shoots on goal as the St. George's goalkeeper dives to his right just in time to deflect the ball off his fingertips and keep it out of the net early in the first-half of the Tigers playoff game against the Dragons.

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Waitsburg-Prescott captain Jairo Gonzalez (right) watches his shot deflect off a Saint George's defender during the second-half of their game Thursday afternoon.

PRESCOTT - Waitsburg-Prescott fought to keep its inaugural soccer season alive Thursday afternoon.

And with a 3-2 victory over St. George's, the 17-0 W-P co-ed team lived to fight again today. W-P plays Northwest Christian at 5 p.m. today in Spokane.

"That was the hardest game we've had this season," W-P coach Rick Hamilton said of the aggressive, physical match with the Dragons. "It was tough. They're an excellent team."

The leftover ice water didn't go unused. Exuberant W-P players quickly grabbed it after sealing the win to drench assistant coach Bart Baxter.

"No one's played us this close all year," Hamilton said. "I told the guys, this is the team that scares me."

Although W-P dominated the match - outshooting the Dragons 6-5 - they fell behind first half as St. George's Karl Muelheims scored first 13 minutes into the game, booting the ball to the lower-right corner.

It was the first time W-P had been behind all season.

"It gets in your head and it's hard to get rid of," Hamilton said of falling behind. "I told them to get back in there and play the game."

At 34 minutes in, Cesar Mungia tied it up on an assist from Omar Virgen.

Tied heading into halftime, Hamilton focused on getting his team ready for the second half.

"I told them it was do-or-die," he said. "They win today or they go home and end the season. This is when champions step up.

"It doesn't matter what our record is, there's no plaque for first in Regionals. There's no trophy. If they want that, they have to fight. Our season's not over, we haven't won anything yet."

W-P wouldn't fall behind again.

Virgen posted a goal at 56 minutes in, with an assist by Francisco Gonzalez.

"They were tough," Virgen said. "It took us more than I thought it would."

Three minutes later, after a collision that saw St. George's forward Erik Muelheims leave the game limping, the Dragons had a penalty kick. Camus Chapman's boot was good to tie the game again at 2-2.

And four minutes after the tie, Miguel Velazco broke through and grabbed a pass from Luiz Fernando Torres to knock in the final goal on the day.

The Dragons had several near-misses - including three shots that knocked off the goal post.

With the stakes raised and their season on the line, St. George's frantically tried to push in a final goal, including two shots in the final minutes. But W-P's defense stepped up and kept them from sealing it.

Pedro Mendoza kept goal for W-P the entire game.

"The defense did great," Hamilton said. "They're what got us here."

This was W-P's third game of the season with St. George's. W-P won the first, 3-2, as W-P scored first.

W-P downed the Dragons 3-1 in the second matchup of the season.

"That game (the first of the season) was like this one," Hamilton said. "They're tough. They came into this healthy and they wanted to win."

And Hamilton believes the Dragons ought to be at State. Redistricting several seasons ago reduced the East region State allocation from three teams to two - and W-P sealed up the second spot.

"It's a shame they're not going," Hamilton said.

St. George's has made several trips to State in the past. This is W-P's first.

"This is an important win for us," said Jose Esquivel, a W-P senior. "It's a statement. This was definitely the hardest game we've played yet."

With the win, W-P is headed to the State tournament. The result of tonight's game against Northwest Christian will determine seeding.

"It's going to be tough out there," Virgen said of today's game. "Hopefully we do well."

The game is at Gonzaga Prep's field, a neutral site in Spokane.

Northwest Christian is a bigger team, but not as fast or agile, Hamilton said. W-P will need to focus on taking control and keeping it, he said.

"We want to win big and go to State ranked No. 1," said Keven Ortega.

If W-P defeats Northwest Christian, it can chose a neutral site for the state semifinals Nov. 17. It would play in Tri-Cities, Hamilton said.

"It feels good to be past this point," Hamilton said, grinning. "What else can a coach say? It's been a blessing to have a team like this. They're 17-0 in their first year. What else can you ask for?"

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