Prep boys soccer: Mendez lifts W.F. West to PK triumph over Aberdeen


The walk from midfield to the spot where a penalty kick is taken isn’t very far. Yet it feels like an eternity.

And no matter how many times Rafael Mendez takes those steps, the emotions and feelings of the moment remain the same.

“To be honest, even if you do it so many times, it is still that nervous feeling in the bottom of your stomach that I could miss this,” Mendez said. “I always pray before.”

The W.F. West sophomore was the hero on Friday night.

Mendez buried his penalty kick into the bottom right corner and was mobbed by his teammates after celebrating a 2-1 (5-4 PKs) triumph over Evergreen Conference rival Aberdeen at W.F. West High School in the Bearcats’ home opener.

“It is a team effort,” Mendez stated. “I think we wanted it a little more.”

It capped a 3-0 week for coach Allen Anderson’s squad, one that featured a 3-2 win over Shelton that went to a shootout and a 4-0 verdict against Kelso. By the time the two five-minute overtime periods commenced, W.F. West was running on fumes.

“When I was able to re-energize them, they really stepped it up late in the game,” Anderson said. “I was really proud of how they finished this game. Their legs were just dead.”

The Bearcats nearly won it with a golden goal.

Adrian Jaimes single-handedly got by a pair of Bobcat defenders and slotted his shot from the near left post all the way to the right post in the 86th minute. Somehow, some way, it didn’t cross over the line.

Jaimes was in disbelief for a minute. So too were his teammates.

“I personally felt very deflated,” Mendez said.

Two minutes later off a corner, Jeremy Thompson got a header near the goal but was stuffed away. Ten minutes went by without a game-winner and a penalty shootout was imminent.

Anderson stated due to the quick turnaround of a Wednesday-to-Friday match, most of Thursday’s training was penalty kicks.

“I couldn’t really make them run,” he said. “They were mentally prepared for this one.”

Thompson, Gage Grisham and Jaimes made the first three for W.F. West (3-1, 2-0 EvCo); Aberdeen countered by converting its first three penalty shots. Devin Canfield put the Bearcats up 4-3 when he went right.

Angel Corona of the Bobcats stepped up to tie the shootout and his attempt sailed wide right.

“I could kind of see his foot placement and it looked a little bit too wide,” Bearcats goalie Cayden Page said. “When he was striking through, he had that follow through where his foot was too open. When it went high, it was a surreal moment.”

That allowed Mendez to take in the moment. He had a direction he wanted to go, then Aberdeen’s goalie made him rethink. Still, he put plenty of power behind his kick and euphoria ensued.

W.F. West’s student section mobbed the field afterwards.

“I knew I had to mix it up and I let my instincts take over,” Mendez said.

“This is a really, really big win for us,” Anderson added. “You could see that relief in their face and body language.”

It was 1-0 lead for the Bearcats at the half after Uzi Lopez Cruz scored on an assist from Mendez in the 32nd minute. Anderson said he was quite happy with the way his group controlled possession and created chances early.

Aberdeen immediately responded in the second half.

Javier Lagunas raced down the right side, got inside the 18-yard box and floated a cross to Elmer Torres who fired it past Page for the equalizer in the 41st minute.

“They came out hungry,” Page said. “It knocked us back into reality.”

W.F. West responded with a handful of chances, but couldn’t cash in on a couple corners, a handful of free kicks and plenty of throw-ins on Aberdeen’s side of midfield.

The victory for the Bearcats sets up a first-place tussle with the only other undefeated team in the conference in Tumwater on Monday night. They’ll have another quick turnaround to get ready for an equally talented opponent.

And they don’t plan on slowing down this early-season momentum.

“We’re going to have everybody locked in and ready to go,” Page said.