It was destiny for the Riverside Pirates.

After years of being so close to a state championship, the Pirates finally broke through with a 2-0 win to beat St. Mary’s on Saturday at Liberty High School and win the Class 3A/2A/1A boys’ soccer state title.

Riverside has made the playoffs every season since 2006 and lost in the 2007 finals, the 2008 and 2010 semifinals and the 2009 quarterfinals.

“This championship means everything to Boardman,” Riverside senior forward Erik Ruiz said. “Soccer is big in our town. I grew up playing on the streets with my teammates.”

Ruiz was named the player of the game and scored the match’s first goal. The opening strike came in the 49th minute off a Jovanny Llamas corner kick that was directed toward the far post.

Ruiz came charging up through the penalty area and stuck his head on the lofted kick and got just enough of it to slide past St. Mary’s goalkeeper Derek Reynolds.

What ended up being all the Pirates would need could have very easily been the equalizer if it wasn’t for Riverside goalkeeper Edgar Llamas.

While he had to make just two saves, both in the first half, his first one was a dandy.

In the 22nd minute, Llamas turned away a pointblank-range shot from the Crusaders’ Adrian Becerra with a diving save.

Llamas made his another save in the 31st minute after he gathered a Harrison Leep headed shot without much problem. The Riverside defense took over after that and didn’t allow another shot the rest of the way.

The usually-prolific Pirate attacking corps was held in check by a very good Crusaders back line all throughout the first half. Riverside’s only true goal-scoring chance in the opening half was a well-struck Ruiz free kick from about 30 yards out.

Ruiz hit a low, driving shot that caused Reynolds to sprawl to his right and parry it away.

Riverside outshot the Crusaders 10-2 in the match, but eight of those shots came in the second half.

Riverside head coach Carlos Velasco urged his team to be more aggressive in the attack for the final 40 minutes.

“I told them we can’t hurt them unless we push the ball forward,” he said. “We controlled the ball in the first half, but it was on our end of the field.”

Riverside’s insurance policy came in the 74th minute when Jose Flores gathered a throw-in, and after flicking the ball over two defenders then working past a third, blasted a shot over the top of a diving Reynolds.

Flores was able to work five shots, two on goal, while Joel Llamas and Ruiz each had two shots. Both of Ruiz’s shots were on target.

Riverside held a 5-1 advantage in corner kicks, and the match was definitely a physical one. St. Mary’s committed 18 fouls while the Pirates were whistled for 16. Five yellow cards were issued, three to Riverside and two to St. Mary’s.

The Pirates ended the year a perfect 19-0. The last time Riverside lost was in last year’s semifinals, a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Catlin Gabel.

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