The intensity was palpable.
As the ball lingered in front of the goal, first-year South Kitsap coach Cory Vartanian acknowledged he was waiting for something “crazy” to happen.
And that never has meant anything positive for the Wolves against Bellarmine Prep dating back to the Reagan Administration.
But that changed Tuesday night as South goalkeeper Jaxom Beverage saved a deflection in front of the right goalpost with 23 seconds remaining to secure a 2-1 win at Joe Knowles Stadium. It was the first win for the Wolves versus the Lions since 1987.
“That was the most amazing moment,” said Beverage, who was among several seniors playing their final home match. “Having the team on my back and winning the game is my proudest moment in soccer.”
The win was significant for South (6-5-1 overall, 5-4-1 league) beyond beating its longtime Narrows League nemesis. With just two matches remaining, the Wolves moved into sole possession of fourth place in Class 4A Narrows past Bellarmine (6-5-1, 4-5-1).
“We had to win this game,” Beverage said. “This is just going to give us motivation for the rest of the season.”
It started in the fourth minute when junior midfielder Aaron Weathington scored on a penalty kick.
“We distributed the ball wide and Bryton [Owen] found Kieran [Prince] on an inside run and played the ball through,” Vartanian said. “Kieran took a great touch, separated from the defender and the foul was drawn.”
South extended its lead to 2-0 in the 27th when Shawn Lange took a pass from Bryton Owen and beat goalkeeper Jacob Hillyer.
That proved significant as the Lions responded in the 54th when Davis Behnke scored.
“They were playing with such high pressure the entire second half,” Vartanian said. “As a coach your face is calm, but you’re ready to explode on the inside.”
Fortunately for Vartanian, his goalkeeper remained calm.
“My mind is totally blank and I’m just living in the moment,” Beverage said. “You have to just react to everything on the field.”
That is what he did on his final save.
“I saw a lot of bodies and I didn’t see a ball, so I just tried to get my body as big as I can and that’s what happened,” he said. “I made the save.
“This is going to be the one game I remember for the rest of my life.”
Vartanian is the program’s fifth coach during the last six seasons. The school’s seniors never have had the same coach for more than one year, and because of that adversity, Vartanian is happy they were able to leave Joe Knowles with a positive memory.
“I can’t say enough for the senior class and the entire team,” he said. “What a way to go out on your home field.”
At South Kitsap 2, Bellarmine Prep 1
First half-1, South Kitsap, Aaron Weathington (penalty kick), fourth minute; 2, South Kitsap, Shawn Lange (Bryton Owen), 27th.
Second half-3, Bellarmine Prep, Davis Behnke, 54th.