Boys soccer: Controversial tie dims Wolves' playoff prospects

South Kitsap High School junior Diego de la Cruz scored in the 53rd minute as the Wolves finished with a 1-1 tie Tuesday against Central Kitsap. - Jeff Rhodes/Staff Photo
South Kitsap High School junior Diego de la Cruz scored in the 53rd minute as the Wolves finished with a 1-1 tie Tuesday against Central Kitsap.
— image credit: Jeff Rhodes/Staff Photo

The official’s right arm moved upward in a rapid counterclockwise motion in the direction of South Kitsap coach James Ritchie.

It was not an ejection — Ritchie was simply motioned to leave — but the sequence of events leading up to it might result in a premature end to the Wolves’ season after they tied the Central Kitsap, 1-1, on Tuesday night.

Both Ritchie and CK coach Christopher Floro agreed that a South player appeared to touch a ball on a shot by Jordan Kollars in the waning moments of the contest. A handball was called and junior Miles Rodriguez-Nilsen’s penalty kick landed in the left side of the net late in the game.

But Ritchie contends the game should have been over at that point. The scoreboard at Joe Knowles Field stops when there is two minutes left in a contest and official time is turned over to the officiating crew. That group stops time for injuries, but Ritchie said he only noticed one, which he felt was dealt with quickly, and felt the contest should have ended before the penalty kick. Instead, an official informed him that there still was four minutes left in regulation.

“I thought the game was passed finished,” Ritchie said. “I don’t know where four minutes comes from. We had one injury and I don’t think there was one yellow card in the second half, so I have no idea where four minutes comes from. Absolutely none.”

Only the top four teams in the Class 4A Narrows League advance to the West Central District Tournament. A win still would have left the Wolves (5-3-1 overall, 3-3-2 league) three points behind the Cougars for fourth place. Instead, CK (7-2-2, 5-2-2) remains six points ahead with just five league games remaining.

“If we lose a playoff spot now, it comes back to that moment,” Ritchie said. “It’s one person’s mistake. Three or four months of work is gone. I’m angry beyond belief right now.”

Floro had a different perspective. He noticed multiple injury breaks during the contest, but said he understood Ritchie’s frustration.

“We have to come to some sort of consistency across the league in applying stoppage time,” he said. “There’s some places — they’ll show all the way down to 40 (seconds) and when that buzzer goes off, that’s it. They’ll stop it here at two minutes and you don’t know if it’s two or five (minutes left).”

It almost did not matter. South junior Diego de la Cruz’s shot in the 45th minute was saved when goalkeeper Jordan Berkley charged forward, but his next opportunity found the net eight minutes later.

“I was a little disappointed in how my defense let the ball dropped after playing a pretty stellar game,” Floro said.

Joey Starr, a sophomore forward for the Wolves, then attempted to fool Berkley by shooting with his back toward the net in the 65th. It landed just inches wide of the left-goal post. The Cougars also had multiple attempts in the second half, but could not beat goalkeeper Jaxom Beverage.

“I thought we actually had a better run of play in the second half,” Floro said. “They actually had a couple of clearer chances and Berkley made some excellent saves.”

It marked the second time this season CK has had a come-from-behind tie against South. The teams previously had a 2-2 stalemate on March 18.

“I have to give credit to my guys because they did not stop at all,” Floro said. “I feel pretty deserving of a tie.”

Ritchie disagreed.

“I’m absolutely sick,” he said. “I’ve never felt quite as bad coming off a game where we’ve not lost — without a doubt. I think we deserved the points.”

At South Kitsap 1, Central Kitsap 1
First half—None.
Second half—1, South Kitsap, Diego de la Cruz, 53rd minute; 2, Central Kitsap, Miles Rodriguez-Nilsen, 76th.

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