ROCHESTER — All Rochester needed to do was not lose by four or more goals in order to clinch the league’s final playoff spot and the Warriors did just that, winning a 6-5 penalty-kick shootout over Centralia at home on senior night Thursday.
The Warriors — who entered with a one-game lead over Centralia — had beaten the Tigers 4-1 earlier in the season, so they just needed to not lose by a larger deficit to clinch the 2A Evergreen Conference’s fourth seed.
A 1-1 stalemate at the end of regulation sealed that for the Warriors.
“A lot of hard work went into this over the years,” Rochester coach Matt Ashton said. “A lot of happy boys on the field tonight.”
In what turned into a defensive battle, the Warriors’ star scorer Alexis Castillo-Corona made sure Rochester went up early, scoring in the sixth minute. Rochester then held Centralia scoreless for the next 47 minutes.
Centralia’s Simba Osman notched the equalizer in the 53rd minute to make it 1-1, but the Tigers were unable to find the back of the net again, sending it into two, five-minute overtime periods. After another scoreless drought, the Warriors came out on top in PKs, 6-5, for the victory.
“Centralia was tough tonight,” Ashton said. “We got an early goal and they put a lot of pressure on us. We were ready for it but I don’t think we played our best. Proud of the boys, especially the seniors on senior night.”
With the win, Rochester moves on to a district pigtail game with Greater St. Helen’s League’s No. 5 seed, Washougal, at 6 p.m., Saturday, in Washougal, in a loser-out game.
“It’s gonna be a tough game,” Ashton said.
The winner of that advances to the opening round of districts Tuesday where they face the state’s top-ranked and undefeated Columbia River (16-0) in a double-elimination format.
Centralia’s bounce-back season comes to a close with the loss. The Tigers jumped from just two wins last season to five this year — highlighted by a league and Chronicle Cup victory over rival W.F. West.
Centralia coach Henry Gallanger said the biggest difference he’s seen in the team from Game 1 to Thursday’s season finale was how much the players have come together as a team.
“We’ve played all year having someone injured or in a hole, and they didn’t complain about it and they kept grinding,” Gallanger said. “We did a good job setting goals and moving toward those goals. The guys improved from this year to last year.”
Four seniors played their final games in Tiger jerseys: Steven Neely, Victor Reyes, Giordan Bressan and Xander Kiefel.
“They did an excellent job stepping up,” Gallanger said. “They all bring certain things to the team that help us be more successful — and not just skill-wise. They’re going to be missed.”