While Seattle and San Francisco played a tough playoff matchup in the NFC football championship this past Sunday evening, there was a bigger prize at stake for several local soccer players and their fans.
Two teams, Columbia Gorge Community College and Milan in Division I, were in a heated contest with bragging rights on the line for the second-annual Columbia Gorge Indoor Soccer League final at The Dalles Fitness and Court Club.
CGCC, led by Mike Elias and Luis Flores, broke open a 4-all halftime tie with a 4-1 outburst in the second stanza to run away for an 8-5 victory over Milan Sunday in The Dalles.
The college team actually led 4-0 in the opening 10 minutes of the 25-minute opening half, but then Milan battled back to even the count.
Within another 10-15 minutes of the second half, CGCC scored two or three goals and took control from there.
It marked a wire-to-wire conquest for CGCC, who lost two games during the season, both by forfeits.
“They looked good throughout the playoffs and just dominated everyone,” said Indoor coordinator Israel Quiroz. “Milan gave them a good game. It was a great game. I know the fans enjoyed it.”
During the playoffs, Quiroz added that attendance was filled to capacity with screaming enthusiasts urging on their favorite teams.
On the final day, TDFCC held a raffle and gave away Timbers soccer tickets, along with other active and outerwear clothing.
Organizers had children step onto the turf for goal shooting and there was a disc jockey playing music during timeouts and halftime.
This was such a great day and so many people involved with the field,” said TDFCC Manager Gretchen Hansen.
On CGCC were Emmanuel Aguilera, Eduardo Linares, Mike Elias, Samuel Chavez, Luis Flores, Santiago Galindo, Diego Diaz and Felipe Heredia-Nieto.
“Some players are semi-pro and most of them are based out of Hood River,” Quiroz said of CGCC’s roster. “They are very skilled and tough to play against.”
For the season, which started in November of 2013, the Division I level had 12 teams with somewhere between 12-14 players on each roster.
Eight teams earned spots in the playoffs until Sunday’s title contest.
On the Milan squad were Omar Vazquez, Hugo Chavarria, Alejandro Gutierrez, Ramon Lopez, Angel Lopez, Juan Luis Rosales, Moses Ruiz, Jose Morales, Israel Torres, Jose Villegas, Jose Urenda and Leo Ruiz.
Since its inception thee years ago, Quiroz has seen the league maturation process come full circle since the humble beginnings with games played on the basketball gymnasium hardwood to the construction of a regulation indoor facility with stands.
There are now 12 teams in Division I, five currently on Division II and another one forming for an estimated total of 256 athletes.
As the numbers have grown, the level of play has improved considerably, with semi-professional, college and former high school standouts signed up.
“I am very excited with what we have been able to accomplish,” Quiroz said. “We try to run it as professionally as possible to keep people coming back. The league keeps getting bigger, more players are coming out and we have better matches every night the fans come out.”
During the year, TDFCC has games running from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
Quiroz has the tough task of making up the schedules, and organizing team activities and practices, among a few of his responsibilities.
Currently, he is in the throes of tabulating some early numbers for winter league, starting in February.
He even is hatching a major plan for a co-ed league for men and women.
“Pretty soon there is soccer for everybody,” Quiroz said of the mission statement. “That is what we want. I feel that next year is going to be twice the amount of players, twice the amount of kids and more divisions. It is a growing sport. I don’t think we have tapped out yet. We got more room to grow. It is a learning experience, but I am very happy with the way things have been coming along.”
For more information on rules, equipment needs and regulations call 541-298-8508 or go to the Columbia Gorge Indoor Soccer League Facebook page.