As sophomore goalkeeper Raphael Ortiz approached, Cropper looked up at him.
“Don’t ruin my senior year,” Cropper said, jokingly.
Ortiz had spent the majority of the season playing for the junior varsity, called up only for the start of the district tournament. Now, with his team facing elimination in the first round of the region tournament against McLean and just seven minutes gone, the sophomore suddenly was thrust into the net.
“I was trying to make myself believe he was going to get back up,” Ortiz said. “But then coach told me to warm up and I knew what was going to happen.”
Ortiz handled the pressure admirably, nearly posting a shutout until a goal with less than seven minutes remaining in the game. By then, however, the outcome seemed in place, and the fourth-ranked Cougars advanced with a 3-1 win.
With the win, Oakton (11-3-1) advances to face No. 2 West Springfield (12-3-1) on Thursday, and Ortiz will be back in net as the starter.
“Definitely did it for Logan,” Ortiz said. “I felt like I owed it to him. … I’ve got a couple days to [get ready] now instead of a couple seconds, so I’m definitely going to get mentally prepared for that one.”
Cropper went down early in the match after a collision with a McLean player in the box. The tackle crushed his lower right tibia, and he had a rod inserted on Wednesday morning. He is expected to miss six to eight months, according to Oakton Coach Todd Spitalny.
After losing their starting goalkeeper, the Cougars seized control of Tuesday’s match.
Near misses in the 10th, 19th and 30th, 35th and 37th minutes seemed ominous, though. If Oakton couldn’t capitalize on the road early, especially with so many solid looks at net, the Cougars might find themselves on the wrong side of the result against an opportunistic McLean side.
Less than four minutes into the second half, however, Oakton earned a penalty and defender Ahmed Ismail stepped up and buried the shot to the left side. Ismail, who nearly didn’t play after spraining his left ankle on Sunday, made it 2-0 with a penalty in the 66th minute to the same side.
“I always go the same spot usually,” Ismail said. “I even heard one of their players say, ‘He’s going to the same side again.’ But I went that way again and it went it so that worked out.”
With McLean (10-5-2) pushing everyone forward seeking a goal, Abdirisaq Abdi broke free on a long clearance and scored with six minutes remaining to seal the win.
Gar-Field’s Ramzey Hassen scored two goals to give the Indians (9-6-2) a brief lead over top-ranked Osbourn Park in the second half, but Nick Bourbonnais tied it with a header off a corner kick with 12 minutes remaining, and won it for the Yellow Jackets (16-1) with one minute remaining in sudden death overtime. … Woodbridge (7-7-2) eliminated Forest Park (10-6) from region contention with a 2-1 win.
In Northern Region play, T.C. Williams (11-5-3) downed Stuart (6-8-2) in penalties 1-1 (4-2), Lake Braddock (8-8-1) defeated Yorktown (8-8-3), 1-0, and No. 9 Langley (13-3-1) eliminated Chantilly (5-11-1), 6-2. Second-ranked West Springfield beat No. 10 Falls Church (10-4-2), 2-1, behind two goals by All-Met Jannik Eckenrode, and No. 5 Mount Vernon (14-1-2) knocked out W.T. Woodson (9-5-2), 2-1.