Andrew Martinez, one of 10 seniors on Centennial's roster, is a big reason why the Eagles are contending for a conference title.
Andrew Martinez, one of 10 seniors on Centennial's roster, is a big reason why the Eagles are contending for a conference title.

The play of senior forward Andrew Martinez has Centennial in the thick of a hotly contested race in Mt. Hood Conference boys soccer.

Martinez scored five goals in a 6-2 win over David Douglas on Sept. 28 and had hat tricks as the Eagles defeated Central Catholic 4-3 and Nelson 8-1 in their last two games. He has 22 goals for the season.

“He's been on a tear,” Centennial coach Todd Saks said. “He's a quality player, through and through. Our attack goes through him. He's effective because he's got incredible ball skills, he's very technical, he's a clinical finisher and he reads the game very, very well.

“He's one of our fiercest competitors. If need be, he'll put the team on his back and just carry the team.”

Martinez has 60 goals in his varsity career at Centennial. Saks recalled adding Martinez to the varsity roster late in his freshman year after Martinez had terrorized on JV, scoring 27 goals.

“I had been hearing rumors about this Andrew Martinez kid, so I brought him up for the last two league games,” Saks said.

Martinez immediately provided some scoring punch as a freshman for the Eagles. He scored 19 goals as a sophomore and a team-high 22 goals as a junior in the shortened spring season. He has 44 goals in 21 matches spanning the last two seasons.

Based on his performance at the Olympic Development Program regional camp in Colorado, Martinez was invited to the US Youth Soccer ODP Interregional camp in November. He will be joined at the camp by a Centennial teammate, senior defender Uriel Ruelas Gonzalez.

Martinez and Ruelas – “the backbone of my back line,” according to Saks – are driving forces for the Eagles (6-4, 4-1), who are battling with Reynolds (6-5-1, 4-1-1), Gresham (6-5, 4-1), Clackamas (4-4-3, 4-1) and Central Catholic (7-5, 3-2) for supremacy in the Mt. Hood.

“The thing that we were lacking is the center mids that we've usually had the last four years,” Saks said. “We don't have that combination this year, so we've kind of used a committee to get the job done in the midfield.”

Martinez is among 10 seniors on the roster, seven of whom were starters in the spring, when Centennial finished 8-2 overall, 6-1 in the Mt. Hood.

Centennial had the best conference record in the spring, but the Mt. Hood did not recognize an official champion. The Eagles have not won a conference title since the highly successful tenure of coach Gordon Mouser, who went 275-71-41 from 1977 to 2000, including the 1983 state championship.

The veteran Eagles are looking to take advantage of their opportunity this fall.

“That's their focus right now,” Saks said.

Building a contender at Centennial has certain challenges, according to Saks.

“Coming from a public school like Centennial, you try not to forecast too far ahead because you never know if those guys are going to still be there,” Saks said. “There's high attrition with moving in and out. I feel like with the connections I've made with them since they were freshmen and sophomores, we've kept probably 90 percent of those players.”

5A showdown

Top-ranked La Salle Prep (9-1-1) went on the road for a 1-0 win over No. 2 Willamette (11-1) in a 5A nonleague showdown Thursday.

Sophomore Kevin Serrano-Maldonado scored off an assist from senior Jeffrey Richter in the 20th minute as the Falcons ended the Wolverines' 21-match unbeaten streak, dating to the first round of the 2019 playoffs.

“The boys were excited about the opportunity to travel to Eugene midseason and measure themselves against one of Oregon's top high school teams,” La Salle Prep coach Monty Hawkins said. “The boys showed up ready to play, producing an outstanding team performance for the entire 80 minutes.

“This result gives them renewed confidence and belief, appreciating it's balanced with the reality we are an evolving work in progress.”

Willamette coach Jason Burke told the Register-Guard that the loss is a “wakeup call” for his team.

“La Salle is a great team and has been a top 5A team for a while now,” Burke said, adding, “We needed this game to see what we needed to improve on so we can be one of the top 5A teams.”

The Wolverines had a chance to pull even in the 32nd minute but was turned away on a double-save by Falcons senior goalkeeper Parker English. He dived to stop a shot by senior Hector Fandino and used his leg to knock away the rebound by sophomore Ariel Carlos De Dios Cruz.

“Honestly, we did not play very well overall,” Burke told the Register-Guard. “La Salle outhustled us all night. That's something we can fix. … Playing La Salle proves that we can compete and beat anyone in 5A if we play as a team. This loss will only make us a stronger team.”

Key games

Marshfield (8-3-1, 8-0-1) strengthened its hold on first place in the 4A Sky-Em League on Monday with a 1-0 win at second-place Cottage Grove (7-3-3, 6-1-2). When the teams met Sept. 29, they played to a 5-5 tie. … Grant (9-2-2, 3-0-2), frontrunner in the 6A Portland Interscholastic League, finishes the regular season with two pivotal games, Tuesday at home against Wells (5-5-1, 3-1) and Friday vs. Lincoln (9-2-2, 3-1-1) at Buckman Field. … Jesuit (10-3, 5-0), which leads the 6A Metro League, is home to face second-place Mountainside (11-2, 4-1) in the regular-season finale Thursday. … North Salem (8-1-2, 6-0) and Corvallis (7-3-1, 6-0), tied for first place in the 5A Mid-Willamette Conference, meet at Corvallis on Thursday. … North Marion (7-2-2, 7-0), leader in the 4A Tri-Valley Conference, plays host to second-place Estacada (6-2-3, 5-1-1) on Thursday. … Dayton (9-3, 5-0) is at Taft (7-3-2, 4-1) on Wednesday in a 3A Special District 2 game.