By Ray Hamill — The Arcata boys scored two second-half goals for a deserved win in the North Coast Section soccer playoffs on Wednesday night, overcoming visiting Willits 2-0 at McKinleyville High School.
Adrian York and Ezra Jones each scored for the Tigers, who were the better team on the night, making better use of their possession, and creating the better opportunities.
“I thought we played pretty well,” Arcata head coach Ty Watkins said. “We were much more composed than we’ve been. It came together.”
The win sets up a trip to San Francisco to take on No. 1 seed International in the second round on Saturday.
“We’re excited,” Watkins said. “We just need to do what we’ve been doing. These guys have put in the hard work.”
The visitors started the stronger of the two teams, taking to the game to the home team from the opening kickoff.
A disciplined defensive performance from the Tigers held firm early, however, as the home team quickly settled down, with the center back pairing of Cory Soll and Zach Oakland setting the tempo.
Senior Jayden Moorehead came closest to breaking the deadlock for the Tigers on two occasions in the opening half, including a blistering shot off the outside of the goalpost 12 minutes in.
Moorehead came close again a few minutes later, this time shooting just off target after a nice run down the right flank and a dangerous cross into the penalty area by Riley Moser.
The game was evenly split for much of the first half in terms of possession and the teams went into the break still scoreless.
The second half, however, belonged to the home team.
Jones almost got the breakthrough eight minutes in, shooting just over the bar on a golden opportunity.
It mattered little as York opened the scoring just moments later, heading past the Willits keeper off a corner kick.
The goal appeared to spur on the home team, which began to look more composed on the ball, passing with confidence, while continuing to hold the visiting attack in check in defense.
On the few occasions, the Wolverines did manage to breach the defense, Arcata goalkeeper Marcus Bensen was there to mop things up on the way to keeping a clean sheet.
The Tigers sealed the win with just over five minutes remaining in the clash, with York turning provider this time, winning possession and passing to Jones, whose shot from the edge of the penalty area found the back of the net.
Arcata’s Taj Beck-Ortiz and Arthur Frye each also played well in attack, keeping the visiting defense on its toes throughout, while Zane Clarke and Scott Malkus were solid on the outside.