PORTLAND -- If victory is indeed found at the intersection of preparation and opportunity, then Adam Moar earned his halo Tuesday night.
The Franklin junior striker, in the Lightning lineup possibly only because of the depleted state of his team’s front line, did exactly what he was supposed to do, when he was supposed to do it, and smashed in a point-blank goal with 5:52 left in the second overtime period to give Franklin a 2-1 victory over Cleveland in the 6A boys soccer semifinals.
And the hits just keep on coming for the Lightning. The Franklin boys entered the playoffs seeded only 14th out of 32 teams, and behind three other Portland Interscholastic League sides. But they’ve beaten all three of them now — all on the road — and now have their hand on the brass ring of Oregon high school soccer.
They’ll get their chance to yank it home on Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium when they face Summit of Bend in the championship game. Summit beat Forest Grove on penalty kicks in the other semifinal.
Say that again: The championship game. It was all so improbable not that long ago. The Lightning was beaten up by injuries and had to beat Lincoln, Grant and finally Cleveland to get to the finals. Not one of them was an upset. Franklin enters the championship with a 13-3-2 record.
At the moment of Moar’s winning goal, it looked as if Cleveland was going to find a way to win it one way or another. After Franklin got an early goal from Finn Rueeger, the zip-line fast and mightily aggressive Warriors rained shots all over the the Lightning defense.
And when they tied the game at 1-1 with 4:24 to go in regulation time, all the momentum seemed to be in their favor. Their speed game was wearing out Franklin defenders to the point where too often their only defensive weapon was a high, booming lob to get the ball out of danger.
But the Lightning finally got a matchup in their favor midway through the second 10-minute overtime period. Right winger Kai Fontenot picked up a loose ball on the right sideline and headed down the line looking for an open spot to cross the ball into the hot zone in front of the goal.
Cleveland’s Aidan Burns dogged him expertly all the way, and Fontenot dribbled this way and that until he was able to put on a burst of speed and get in the clear.
“We spend a lot of time working on getting the edge,” the junior winger said. “Our coaches spend hours and hours watching film, and they told us to get the edge and go to the corner because we have the athleticism and speed to get past the defense.”
As Fontenot broke open — perhaps three feet from the end line and 10 feet from the corner flag — Moar went where he was supposed to go.
“We’re taught that whenever Kai — especially Kai — gets to the line,” said Moar, who is also the backup goalkeeper, “we’re supposed to get to the penalty spot and wait for him to to cut it back to you, because you know he’s going to do it.”
Sure enough, Fontenot ripped a right-footed cross into the box.
“Then auto pilot or something took over,” Moar said. “I was just there. I slid in and put my entire body behind it. If my foot didn’t get it, something was going to.”
It was his foot, and it was a smash. Cleveland goalkeeper Ibrahim Garza couldn’t do a darn thing about it as the ball bulged the back of the net.
Pandemonium erupted on the field and in the stands of Cleveland Stadium, which was packed with celebrative students and spectators from both schools. And it was a huge moment for Southeast Portland high school soccer.
The two schools are only 34 blocks apart. Some kids who live in the Franklin area go to Cleveland, and vice versa. They’ve been going at each other for decades, but have had to cede the athletic limelight to the rest of the PIL over the years.
Not now. Franklin won the state cross country championship last Saturday in Eugene, and its soccer team now can lay claim to the unrivaled city crown.
“I’m really proud of our two schools for the rise we’ve made over the last few years,” said Franklin coach Ty Kovatch. I’m proud of the rivalry that has developed. This makes the whole league better, and makes the whole city better.”
So either way on Tuesday, Southeast Portland was going to have a crack at a state title. And they went at it that way from the first kick.
Cleveland played Cleveland ball the entire time. The Warriors are fast and throw lots of people into the attack all the time. They led the state’s 6A teams with 78 goals this year; no one else even had 70, and only one other team had 60.
So they were totally unprepared when Reeuger got wide open in the box. Sophomore Caden Davis crossed it to him and he smashed it home from 20 feet out just 2:55 into the game.
“Early on, their defense wasn’t as focused on us as we were on them,” Reeuger said. “I saw a lot of space in the box, and Caden gave me a prefect feed. It was skipping a bit, but it was perfect.
“I expected them to be more tight on me. They know me as a player, but they left me open.”
Very few insiders expected the goal to hold up, but it almost did. The Warriors got openings the rest of the night and rained arching passes into the Franklin box and peppered Lightning goalkeeper Gael Salas-Lara with one difficult shot after another.
Any other goalkeeper might have given up three goals during the onslaught, but Salas-Lara held on almost to the end. But with 4:24 left, another Cleveland lob found Saul Sosa’s foot in a place where Salas-Lara couldn’t be and the game was tied at 1-1.
In overtime, the game suddenly evened out. Cleveland’s onslaughts ended with feckless thrusts, and it was clear that the next goal was going to win the game.
Enter Moar. He’s a center striker because the Lightning lost leading scorer Larry Delgado-Lopez to a hamstring injury in the Lincoln game last Tuesday.
“Adam has size and strength and does a really good job of playing the hold-up striker role,” Kovatch said. “When we need to win the ball, or win the ball in the air, or when we need a physical presence, we get him in.
“He got our first goal against Lincoln at our place, and he got another key assist. This is now two goals and an assist in very limited playing time.”
The rest of the time, it’s been practice, practice, practice for Moar.
On Tuesday, all that practice taught him what to do with his moment.