MILTON-FREEWATER - The Mac-Hi Pioneer boys soccer team battled the Astoria Fishermen to a 0-0 tie at halftime Tuesday afternoon, but they came alive to score a pair of second-half goals to win, 2-0, at Shockman Field and advance to the second round of the Oregon Class 4A state playoffs.
The win sets up a matchup at Philomath, the No. 2 seed, Saturday.
Philomath beat the No. 7 seed, Sisters, 4-0 Tuesday to advance to the quarterfinals.
"I haven't heard much about Philomath," Mac-Hi sophomore midfielder Jaime Torres said, "(I) just know that they're a really strong team. We've got to go out there and beat them. We can be better."
The Pioneers were better Tuesday in the win against the Fishermen. Mac-Hi took 17 shots, seven on goal, including the two counters.
The Pioneers outshot the Fishermen 17-5, with Astoria putting three on-goal.
"I understand that my players are young, but they play great and together," Mac-Hi coach Jose Garcia said. "Inexperience can kill you, and we were slow to score in the game. But my players have really been trying hard and working hard. I'm really proud of them."
There was plenty to be proud of in the second half, with Mac-Hi knocking home two goals.
At the 50-minute mark, Mac-Hi's Neftali Cazarez dribbled into the left-hand goalie box of the Fishermen and was tripped by an Astoria player.
Pioneers senior forward Roberto Sandoval took the resulting penalty kick and booted it high, to the left and over Fishermen goalkeeper Placido Saucedo, putting the score at 1-0 Mac-Hi with 30 minutes remaining in the game.
"I stepped up and took the penalty kick," Sandoval said. "I always like taking penalty kicks because they are easy to me. We take lots of penalty kicks in practice and I tend to make most of them, so I was pretty confident when the PK came up."
Prior to the goal, Mac-Hi showed its nerves a bit by getting two offsides calls in the Astoria goal box in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
"They're (Fishermen) a pretty good team," Sandoval said. "They pressured us good. We were just too nervous going into the game, we have a young team. We just need to adapt to the other team and then we do better."
After the first Mac-Hi goal, the Pioneers took two more shots, one on goal, before breaking through again for the second goal on a header by Torres.
"My goal was on a good cross from Luis Saldana," Torres said. "After the first goal, we needed to lock down another goal so that we could have our hopes a little higher, a little stronger."
"It was a very nice cross to Jaime, who finished," Garcia said. "Excellent - just amazing - great play. After that goal, I relaxed a little bit and the tension seemed to fall away."
Coming into the game against Mac-Hi, Astoria was 12-3 and had won its league. Astoria had pitched seven shutouts.
Home-field advantage and defense were big against Astoria Tuesday.
"We had a lot of support today," Torres said. "It helped raise our expectations to beat them."
This time, Mac-Hi recorded the shutout.
"Defensively, we really did well today," Garcia said. "But going forward, we need to attack better.
"We need to play our way, our style, our game, get confidence and pass the ball even better," he said. "But give them credit, Astoria pressured us all game long and played well. They wouldn't let us do anything, we had to earn it."
The Pioneers look to go further in the state playoffs.
"I don't know much about Philomath or many of the other teams," Sandoval said. "I really don't look at the rankings or stats, either. I just go out and play my hardest. I play my heart out."
The Pioneers wore black and red mohawks in honor of making the playoffs.
The mighty red mohawks are poised to make a run through the playoffs this year.
"We can play with anyone, but we've got to be there mentally and share the ball," Garcia cautioned.