Close, but no crown for SK

By the time the final seconds ticked off the clock at Sumner’s Sunset Chev Stadium late Saturday night, the outcome had been obvious for some time.

South Kitsap’s dream soccer season had come to a disappointing close on a cool, soggy night at the hands of a Snohomish team that has quietly turned itself into a Class 4A state power over the past six years.

For the Panthers, the 5-1 victory was the perfect exclamation point on a dream season of their own, one that saw them ranked as high as No. 1 in the country in one poll and concluded with the school’s fourth state title of the 2005-06 sports season.

For the Wolves, the 5-1 final was not what brought the majority of the tears that freely flowed once it was over - it was the way they had played, especially in the wake of the deepest playoff run in the program’s history.

“We just mentally weren’t there,” senior captain Cade Mossman said. “We didn’t come back from being down – we didn’t respond the way we should have. We just collapsed and gave them the game.”

The Panthers, who finished the year 20-1 and ranked sixth in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll, capitalized on a multitude of South mistakes.

At one point, Snohomish scored three goals in a span of four minutes, upping its lead from 1-0 to 4-0, which all but cemented its second title in the past six years.

“We couldn’t give them any room to breathe,” Mossman said. “They capitalized on their chances, which we didn’t do. Every time they got an opportunity, they finished. And we didn’t do that.”

South concluded it’s best-ever season with its first trophy from the state tournament, a record of 18-3 and a ranking of 13th in the NSCAA poll. The Wolves had played maybe their best soccer of the year just a night earlier in 1-0 shootout win over Lake Stevens to advance to the title game.

“Nobody but us expected us to go this far,” senior goalie Tony Saddler said. “We were the underdog in pretty much every (state) game we played in. I guess you could say it was a true underdog story for us to get all the way to the finals.”

But the same intensity and defensive pressure that resulted in a 4-2 shootout win over the Vikings in Friday’s semifinal win was lacking against the Panthers. Maybe the strain of playing six-straight post-season contests on the road and as the underdog finally caught up with this group.

Or perhaps it was the fact that the team that had played so well for so long unfortunately didn’t play as a team this time.

“I admire people who try to put the team on their shoulders and make big plays,” South coach Eric Bergeson said, “even if it wasn’t the appropriate response to the situation. I admire the heart and courage that shows but I would also like to think that we would continue to work as 11 at a time instead of one or two.”

After playing the Panthers even for the first 20 minutes, the Wolves turned the ball over in front of its own net one too many times and paid the price as Brandon Crutchfield scored 20 minutes into the game.

“We stuck with them that first half. That goal was just a hustle play and we could have prevented it,” junior midfielder Travis Gutierrez said. “We stuck with them most of the game but we had a few slips and we got our heads down and we just kind of gave up.”

Once again, South played solid for the first 20 minutes of the second half but the Panthers would put the game out of reach by turning more South turnovers and mistakes into three goals in the span of four minutes.

Colin Lacy scored in the game’s 59th minute while Brandon Kelley scored back-to-back goals in the 61st and 62nd minutes. Brendan Rosgen made it 5-0 with seven minutes left in the game.

“We gave them too much, we should have pressured them harder,” Gutierrez said. “(Snohomish) is definitely a beatable team. Any given day, if we give it our all, I think we could have beaten this team. That score doesn’t really show how good they are because I don’t think 5-1 is how good they are. We’re better than that.”

Bergeson said two of the Panthers’ first four goals were results of players doing unnecessary things which freed up their opponents for easy scoring shots.

But a lot of that had to do with Snohomish itself. The Panthers were a bit bigger and a step quicker at times. And they have plenty of playoff history to and tradition to rely on having won the title in 2000 while taking second in 2003 and third in 2004.

“It really wasn’t like we played that bad,” Bergeson said. “We had plenty of looks and plenty of chances in front of the goal, maybe not near as many as they did.”

Gutierrez got the Wolves on the board in the 75th minute by heading in a ball from Tim Grey, bringing a close to the best run by any South team during the sports year.

“In a week or so, I’m sure I’ll feel good about it,” Mossman said. “It was a great accomplishment, being the first team in school history to get here. But right now, second place just doesn’t feel too good.”

“I have nothing but pride and (my players) have everything to hold their heads high about,” Bergeson added. “They were the best team the school’s had without making it to this game, which was icing on the cake. It’s tough to swallow ... but I’d bet every 4A school but Snohomish would gladly trade us spots.”

Class 4A State Soccer Tournament

Championship Game

Played May 27 at Sumner

Snohomish 5, South Kitsap 1

1, Snohomish, Brandon Crutchfield (Brandon Kelley), 20th minute; 2.

Snohomish, Colin Lacy (Josh Petosa) 59th; 3. Snohomish, Kelley (Matt

Berry) 61st; 4. Kelley 62nd; 5. Snohomish, Brendan Rosgen 73rd; 6. South

Kitsap, Travis Gutierrez (Tim Grey) 75th.

Semifinal game

Played May 26 at Sumner

South Kitsap 1, Lake Stevens 0

(SK advances 4-2 in shootout)

Shootout goals - South Kitsap: Travis Gutierrez, Kyle Schoales, Tim Grey,

Victor Kelmel; Lake Stevens: Bryce Kinney, Eric Guenther.

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