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Something clicked in Corvallis High’s players early in the second half Wednesday night when the scoreboard showed Sandy with a 2-0 lead.

The Spartans made a slight change in strategy and fought their way back to even. Corvallis even took a lead in overtime but had to settle it on penalty kicks.

David Nazario-Avalos finished what turned out to be the winning kick and goalkeeper Roman Gabriel’s diving stop ended the match, giving the Spartans a 4-3 win in an OSAA 5A boys soccer first-round game at Spartan Stadium.

“We just did what the coach told us to do and we kept pushing it,” said Nazario-Avalos, whose team put a forward up top to pressure Sandy’s back line after falling behind 2-0 after nearly 50 minutes of the 80-minute regulation. “We didn’t give up even though we were down two. We just kept going.”

Second-seeded Corvallis (13-1-1) advances to a state quarterfinal, hosting Parkrose on Saturday at a time to be announced later. Seventh-seeded Parkrose (12-0-4) defeated visiting Summit 3-2 Wednesday after a 5-4 decision on penalty kicks.

It took nearly 11 minutes to respond to the deficit against 15th-seeded Sandy (10-5), but Michael Chavez’s goal in the 61st minute got the second-seeded Spartans headed in the right direction.

Avery Whipple got the equalizer in the 76th on a Liam Clark assist, energizing the home crowd after several near-misses down the stretch.

“With guts, pride and passion. We’ve been telling them all year long, take it one game at a time, one play at a time and just trust the process, and that’s what they did,” Spartans coach Chad Foley said of his team’s comeback. “There wasn’t ever any lack of believe in these guys that we weren’t going to pull this out.”

Corvallis sophomore Edgar Monroy, the Mid-Willamette Conference player of the year, had some hard luck on missed shots throughout the second half and the first of two 10-minute overtime periods.

But his pass set up Dylan Heppell for the go-ahead score midway through the second overtime. Sandy would answer with 2:07 left, as Anthony Ruiz found the net over the outstretch arms of a jumping Gabriel.

Corvallis went first in the five-round penalty kick period and scored on all four of its opportunities.

Max Brune and Heppell gave the Spartans leads of 1-0 and 2-1, respectively, before Sandy’s Allan Lainez sailed a shot over the goal.

Monroy made it 3-1 on a quick shot into the lower left corner, just ahead of Sandy keeper Brandon Moreno, who made a diving attempt at the ball. Sandy’s Ryan Escareno then scored before Nazario-Avalos put a shot in the right side with a ball that glanced off Moreno’s hands.

Gabriel had the victory in his sights when the goal for the final time with Dakota Blizzard in front of him. Gabriel made the right move and laid out to knock the shot away.

“I tried zoning in on it and focusing real hard. It just happened like that” Gabriel said, smacking his hands together, “and it was a great moment because we finally got the win coming back from 2-0.”

Asked if he has something he looks for in the kickers, Gabriel said: “It’s a secret I’ve got, it’s a 50/50 though. It’s still a guess. It doesn’t work all the time, as you see they got two on me.”

Foley said he felt good in the PK situation with Gabriel, a first-team all-league player.

“I’m surprised that he let in three tonight, but hey, that’s soccer for you,” the coach said. “I’m sure he’s going to take that as a challenge moving forward to be better in the next game.”

Foley said Wednesday’s win is something to build on.

“Anytime you win an emotional game like that you generate some sort of momentum,” he said. “But also there’s lessons to be learned from this game. There’s stuff we need to shore up. It helps prepare us moving forward.”

Sandy was fourth in the Northwest Oregon Conference after losing four games in a five-game stretch — three by 1-0 scores — in October without a few of its best players. Thus the Pioneers were relegated to the 15th seed.

Parkrose was third in the NOC with a 4-0-3 mark. Parkrose won 3-0 at Sandy on Oct. 5.

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Sports Reporter