SK bound for tournament

Brandon Pratt’s message to his team was a simple one — we go out together.

With the senior forward missing from Saturday’s winner-to-state, loser-out contest with Decatur due to a prior academic engagement, Pratt sent a letter of encouragement to his teammates telling them the season couldn’t end until the entire team was together.

The Wolves, and Pratt, will get their wish.

Andrew Kenyon’s goal with 12.5 seconds remaining in the first game combined with a suffocating defense and key saves by goalie Sam Canfield led to a 1-0 win Saturday that put the Wolves into the Class 4A state tournament for the third time in the last seven years.

“South Kitsap’s not always known for soccer,” SK coach Eric Bergeson said. “It makes me as proud as can be that these guys’ hard work and effort and sticking with it and going through the hard times will pay off. It’s impressive for them to come out and put that much effort into a game.”

The Wolves, 10-6-2, played Shorewood late Tuesday night in the round of 16. The winner advanced to this weekend’s quarterfinal round while the loser went home.

Pratt, who received a red card in last week’s seeding game, which made him ineligible for Saturday’s game anyway, was in Oregon for the game but his words seem to have gotten to his teammates.

“He wrote a really great, inspirational letter to the guys, a little bit apologizing but they understand the situation,” Bergeson said. “The point of it was to inspire them, but also to say that it’s not right if we’re not all together for our last game after this long run. So that really got them focused.”

But the star of Saturday’s game was Canfield, and the defense that held the high-powered Gators scoreless. Especially after Kenyon’s goal.

“That told me that I needed to push it up,” Canfield said. “I needed to bring the intensity level up one more step because one goal could tie it up, and I knew I had to bump it up.”

While Canfield made plenty of saves in the first half, he wasn’t alone.

“Chris Lewis, he goes tough all the time,” Canfield said. “Every single ball he goes tough to. He never gives up. Never.”

Lewis was just one part of Bergeson’s defense scheme to fill the middle of the field and make Decatur beat Canfield either over the top or from the side.

Lewis, Robbie Robinson, Jimmy Hoettel and Miguiel Peredo all filled the middle nicely and all made key plays down the stretch.

“My defense really helped me out a lot,” Canfield said. “We played awesome.”

Kenyon’s goal to close the first half was a bit of break, but he and the Wolves capitalized on it.

“(The goalie) had it and then it just popped out,” Kenyon said. “It looked like someone just kicked it out of his hand. I just kicked it in.”

That gave the Wolves a cushion and let the defense fall back even tighter.

“We put as many people back as we could and just tried to keep possession of the ball,” Robinson said. “Usually, we come out a little bit quiet in the first half and we kind of did this time. But we stepped it up and came out even harder in the second half.”

“Nobody expected us to beat Decatur,” Robinson said. “As long as we played hard, we expected to beat them and we did. And that’s what matters.”

The Gators got one solid look as the clock wound down, but Ciaran O’Brien’s shot hit the crossbar and Canfield was able to clear it.

“I’m proud of our defense, they held tough,” Bergeson said. “Hoettel and Robinson really controlled the middle. And they got all kinds of help from Peredo and Lewis. That back four, combined with our keeper, kept us in the game.”

But there’s still a ways to go.

“I don’t think we’ve played our best half yet,” Robinson said. “Bergeson tells us before every game and before the second half ‘we haven’t played our best half yet, we still have it in us and we need to find it.’ He’s right.”

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