RENTON — As expected, Alex Harris played a big role on offense for the Columbia River boys soccer team.
Less expected was the major role Cameron Harris played on the defensive end for the Rapids.
Alex Harris scored two first-half goals, and goalkeeper Cameron Harris came up big in the second half, withstanding a barrage of shots as River beat Sehome of Bellingham 2-1 on Saturday in the Class 2A state semifinal match.
“We thought this was going to be the toughest match we’ve seen all year, if not the toughest match we’ll see all year,” Columbia River coach Matt Newman said. “I think our boys did an amazing job of defending them.”
In particular, Cameron Harris in goal, who recorded eight saves – a total that might have taken him a month to accumulate during the regular season with the way River plays defense.
“When we get chances against him, we were waiting to see what he was going to do with it,” Newman said. “Because he hasn’t been tested. He only came to us last year. He didn’t play for us as a freshman. He’s done a really good job of developing. We wanted to see what kind of development he’s made in a game, but haven’t really seen much of it all year until today.”
Sehome brought some early pressure in Friday’s semifinal, recording four shots on goal in the first five minutes.
But then River started getting some pressure on offensive. After a couple of close calls, Alex Harris put the Rapids up with a goal in the 19th minute.
In the 35th minute, JP Guzman was taken down in the box, and Alex Harris converted the penalty kick for a 2-0 lead the Rapids took into halftime.
But as they did at the start of the match, the Mariners came with pressure in the second half.
“We knew they were going to come out strong,” Alex Harris said. “They came out strong in the first half. But we matched their energy both times.”
Sehome’s pressure produced a goal for the Mariners in the 46th minute, cutting the deficit to 2-1.
Sehome continued its barrage on the goal, each time Cameron Harris responding with a diving save or punching save and getting banged around in the process.
Twice play had to be stopped after the goalkeeper received blows to the head or face. The second time, midway through the second half, trainers had to come out to tend to him.
But the junior stayed in, and the Rapids kept turning Sehome away.
“He stepped up,” Alex Harris said of Cameron. “He stepped up big time. We have confidence that he can do that. Obviously we don’t want to test him if we don’t have to. But he’s a great keeper, and we have confidence that he can make some good saves when we need them.”
Last year, River’s hopes of a state title were ended by a semifinal loss to Burlington-Edison on penalty kicks. Benner was proud the Rapids didn’t give Sehome that opportunity on Friday.
“And we know from last year, we were in the same exact situation,” Benner said. “Being able to come out strong in the second half and not letting them come back in the game was super important to us.”
Alex Harris added: “This was our redemption game right here, because last year our hopes of winning a state title were crushed in the semifinal game. And we did not want that to happen a second year in a row. This is our redemption game, and we got the result we wanted.
River will face North Kitsap for the state championship at 6 p.m. Saturday at Renton Memorial Stadium.
“We’ve been literally talking about this the last three months now,” Benner said. “To be here now with the opportunity to win it, everybody’s just ecstatic.”
COLUMBIA RIVER 2, SEHOME 1
Goals — Alex Harris; Harris pk. Goalkeeper saves — Cameron Harris 8.
Goal — Reiley Buri-Brown. Goalkeeper saves — Kinoah Mitchell 5.
Halftime — Columbia River 2-0.