Falcon soccer playoff run ends in two games

"Though they did not know it at the time, players on South Whidbey High School's boys soccer team were only one kick away Tuesday from going to the state tournament.Tied 2-2 with Lynden Christian after two overtimes in the first round of the district playoffs, the Falcons went blow for blow with the Lyncs to 2-2 penalty kick knot in a game-ending shootout. Both teams had already shot wide of the goal several times and seemed poised to stretch the game into the darkness of evening. But on the final kicks of the showdown, the Lyncs got the ball past South Whidbey goalkeeper Michael Johnson while the Falcons missed their last attempt. The result sent the Lyncs on to state and set up one more meeting between the Falcons and Mount Baker in a loser-out game Thursday.The shaken South Whidbey team lost that game 2-1 and found itself out of the playoffs one year after it placed second at the 2A state meet and just days after posting its best season record ever. It was not the sort of ending neither the team nor its coach, Mark Helpenstell, had envisioned Saturday afternoon, when the Falcons beat the Mountaineers at Mount Baker to set up Tuesday's winner-to-state game. Helpenstell said he and his boys had hoped to go further.That was not what I expected, he said after Thursday's game.The loss was almost inexplicable. The Falcons fell behind 1-0 in the first 90 seconds of the game when a Mount Baker striker beat Mike Johnson with a long kick to the left-hand corner of the net. But over the next 88 minutes, the Falcons pounded the Mountaineers, outshooting them 36 to 8. All that shooting failed the pay off. The Mountaineers added a second goal to their total in the 70th minute while South Whidbey senior George Supang mustered the only goal for his team in the losing effort. Outside of that goal, the Mountaineer defense and goalkeeper were immovable objects.We were firing nonstop in the second half, said a disbelieving Helpenstell.Still, the coach said he could not be more proud of his team. After playing what he called phenomenal season, the South Whidbey boys proved that their little island is a soccer hotbed. Helpenstell pointed to senior defender Aaron McCabe as an example. A starter since his first game as a freshman, McCabe set a school record for varsity games played when he finished his 71st Thursday. It was that kind of dedication that helped the team win this season, even after losing standout midfielder Kevin Brink to injury three weeks ago.Twelve seniors graduate off this year's team, a situation that sets up spring 2002 as a rebuilding season. With luck and a strong crop of freshman players next year, that rebuild should be short, Helpenstell said.The Falcons finish the season with a 13-5 record. "

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