Steilacoom stymies Falcon kickers

"South Whidbey's soccer players will not have home field advantage to start this year's state championship playoffs.The Falcons hit a bump on the road to state Saturday afternoon when they lost a 1-0 contest to Steilacoom. The playoff game was the last game this season that the Falcons could lose without endangering their chances of a state championship.Both teams go on to the state tournament after the game, but the Falcons receive a lower seeding. Steilacoom also earned home field advantage in the first round -- a prize the Falcons would have claimed had they won.On Saturday, Steilacoom's players and their Astroturf home field were co-conspirators in the Falcon's loss. Accustomed to playing on grass, the Falcons played a sketchy game during the opening 20 minutes, said Mark Helpenstell, coach. They eventually acclimated to the playing surface, upping the speed of their play to keep pace with fast moving kicks and high bounces. But Steilacoom was already up to speed, and its strikers scored early on a rare foray into Falcon territory.Though they had chances of their own, the Falcons could not capitalize on the shower of shots directed at the Steilacoom goalkeeper. The team's coach took the loss in stride.Fortunately it's a game we could afford to lose, Helpenstell said.Helpenstell said he turned to freshmen Adam Jaffey and Abe Smith-Groening during the game, since the two varsity rookies have more turf-playing experience than most of the Falcons. Smith-Groening in particular was a defensive draw and passing threat during his minutes on the field, Helpenstell said, shaking the Falcon offense loose on several drives.The Falcons play their first-round state playoff game Saturday against Washougal. The two teams play at Camas High School at 2 p.m."

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