HILLSBORO — Chad Foley sought out each and every one of his players who had fallen to the turf at Hillsboro Stadium early Saturday afternoon.
Many were spread out, almost lifeless, after a gut-wrenching 2-1 overtime loss to Mid-Willamette Conference rival and perennial 5A powerhouse Woodburn in the state title game.
Foley then took some extra time to congratulate Woodburn backup keeper Jose Ochoa, who had tears of joy streaming from his eyes, almost in disbelief at what he had done.
It was Ochoa who came on in the final six minutes of the second overtime and made several game-saving saves.
“A class act,” is what Woodburn coach Leroy Sanchez said as he watched Foley and other CHS coaches take the time to hug and praise his keeper.
No doubt, Saturday’s loss was tough on the Spartans' third-year coach. Corvallis had a 1-0 lead until the final four minutes of regulation before falling behind less than a minute into the first of two 10-minute overtime periods.
But regardless of the situation, Foley found ways to keep his team positive and to encourage them even in what appeared to be the darkest of times.
He ended by consoling one of his players in the locker room after everyone else had left.
He spoke before, during and after the game about how much he loved his players and for them believing in what they did and that they would be champions.
“They embody all the traits that this program is built on,” Foley said underneath the stands and just outside the Spartans locker room, the emotional toll of knowing the season had ended clearly evident.
“I consider it a privilege to be a part of this group, a part of the program and I know that these boys carry on the legacy of all the players and coaches who have been a part of this family.”
The players have clearly followed the lead of their coach, one who got his start as a head coach under trying situations. It was just over two years ago when John Callahan had to step down due to health reasons and died during the season.
Foley displayed the same characteristics then that he did Saturday and has continued to carry on what the program has been built on.
“I think we really have become as close to a family as we could,” said senior Nick Hentzel. “Guys out there were working for each other. I don’t think at any point we were done. I think whatever happened we were still going to work.
“We could have been down 10 and we would have still been working for each other. We would still have believed we would win that game.”
That’s what made the decision Saturday so difficult. It will not, however, take away anything from the season.
“It’s an honor for me to be able to be around this group of young men,” Foley said. “The integrity in which they approach the game and the passion in which they played with and their overall love is great.”