Jefferson bullies SK season to a premature end

This time even Nick Boone’s best wasn’t enough.

Facing an opponent that was just a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger and a little bit faster, the South Kitsap boys soccer season came to an end in the opening round of the Class 4A state tournament Wednesday night as Jefferson downed the Wolves 2-0 at Memorial Stadium in Federal Way.

South, making its second straight appearance in the state tourney, finished the year at 10-5-2. This is the second time in three years Jefferson has ended the Wolves’ season with a 2-0 win, having beaten South in the West-Central District tournament in 2003.

“They’re loaded with good players. That’s why they’ve won state before,” South coach Eric Bergeson said. “That’s why they’re in the state tournament, that’s why we’ve struggled with them before.”

While the Wolves struggled to keep the ball out of their own end for much of the night, it was Boone who kept them in the game. The senior goalkeeper faced shot after shot all evening, deflecting most the way he had all season.

Of the 32 shots he faced, just two, both by Rafael Velazquez, got through.

“Maybe his best game that I’ve seen him play,” Bergeson said. “And that’s saying something because he’s consistently been a rock-solid goalkeeper. He was out of this world, and that’s just a great way to end your career.”

With Boone making save after save in the first half, the Wolves were primed to pull the upset but could muster just four shots of their own.

“I don’t know if we tested their keeper at all,” Boone said. “The definitely out-shot us. They had great shots, quality shots, and we didn’t.”

The difference, Bergeson said, was Jefferson’s ability to go up and get the ball.

“I thought it came down to who won the 50-50 balls,” Bergeson said. “They were able to hold the ball in our end a lot of the time. And when you’re giving away 50 pounds a man, that’s going to happen. Obviously, our youth and our size have impacted us.

“Start to finish, we were just out muscled,” Bergeson said. “Not to our advantage, it was a very physical game.”

South had entered the game with the mindset of stopping Lamar Neagle, who has scored more than half the Raiders’ goals this year, and for the most part did just that.

But it was Jefferson’s size and speed that caught up to South in the end.

“A few times, yeah, I think we were a step slow,” senior defender Chris Lewis said. “They are a quick team, no doubt about it. They have a lot of players that have great first touch. They’re an all-around great team.

“I think we were real evenly matched teams,” Lewis said. “They definitely had a lot more power in the air than we did. And we didn’t figure out a way to counter that. And that’s what really killed us in the end.”

After a scoreless first half, Velazquez scored on a blast right in front of the net in the 53rd minute to put the Raiders up. Fourteen minutes later, Velazquez put through a clean header that all but ended the game.

“The defense in the first half really did its job well,” Lewis said. “But they found somewhat of a weakness of ours, one that we’ve struggled all year with — getting up in the air in the goal box — and we paid for it today.”

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