By Josh Kirshenbaum /

Tigers Score Twice in 1st Half to Beat Shelton


During the Tigers’ first pass through the 2A EvCo schedule, they won their first two matches, then lost four straight. After splitting the first two in their second run through, they entered a stretch of matches where any hopes for the postseason rested on coming back to beat teams they’d lost to once already.

Tuesday, Centralia got off to a good start at it, scoring twice in the opening half to beat Shelton 2-0 at Tiger Stadium, evening the season series with the Highclimbers.

“That’s the beauty of playing teams twice a year,” head coach Noel Vazquez said. “You get to lose to them once, and then you get to make it complicated for them the second time around.”

In a game that lacked much in the way of extended possession, true chances, or even shots on target, Centralia made the most of the opportunities it had. 

The Tigers’ first real look at goal didn’t come until the 16th minute when Antonio Alamanza took the ball on the turn and fired a shot from a bit of a tough angle. Shelton’s keeper made the save but couldn’t hold on, and Justin Rosales-Reyes was the first to get to the loose ball on the goal line, poking it in to make it 1-0.

From there, the Highclimbers got onto the front foot, even putting the ball in the back of the net in the 19th minute, only to have it waved off for a handball in the build-up.

Soaking up all of Shelton’s pressure, Centralia finally got its chance to counter in the 38th, when Leo Perez — the Tigers’ starting forward who’s been hampered all season with a hamstring injury — fed Abdelaziz Osman, who beat the keeper to double the hosts’ lead.

Osman was by far the most active attacking player in black, especially in the first half, setting up most of Centralia’s possession in the final third, and the goal was the capper on all of it.

“He’s been doing really well,” Vazquez said. “Not a whole lot of scoring, but he’s been very effective. He drags a lot of attention, and he opens up quite a bit for other players.”

Coming out of halftime with a two-goal advantage, Centralia spent the bulk of the second half repelling Shelton’s attacks, and after three straight games in which tired legs on the back line led to conceded goals on or around the 60th minute, the Tigers finally put together a complete half to see things out.

“We worked on that today,” Vazquez said. “We were screaming at the 60th minute, kind of getting the guys ready mentally, knowing that we were at the 60th-minute mark and we had to focus.”

Carlos Hernandez finished with five saves in goal, but none were particularly harrowing. For the most part, his defense did everything it could to keep the Highclimbers from getting anywhere near the net, and as the second half wore on, the Tigers took advantage of possession when they could to salt the game away.

“I want to say that this was our best team performance where we all just helped each other out,” Vazquez said. “Sometimes we’ve become very individual as players, but I think they’re starting to understand that if we’re going to go somewhere we’ve got to do it as one, not as many.”

On a two-game mini-winning streak, Centralia will get its biggest matchup of the season Friday, hoping to flip another early-season loss when it hosts W.F. West. The Bearcats beat the Tigers 3-1 on March 22, and will come north for the second leg of the Chronicle Cup with a two-goal advantage.

“We’re looking forward to Friday,” Vazquez said. “We know it gets rowdy here in Centralia when those two teams play.”