Sports

Holt saves Falcon soccer season against Burlington-Edison

Burlington-Edison junior Bryan Granados slides after the ball as South Whidbey senior defender Sam Lee attempts to clear the ball Tuesday at South Whidbey High School.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Burlington-Edison junior Bryan Granados slides after the ball as South Whidbey senior defender Sam Lee attempts to clear the ball Tuesday at South Whidbey High School.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — Burlington-Edison had its shots, and plenty of them, against the South Whidbey boys soccer team.

In the final 12 minutes, the Tigers attempted eight shots on goal. The Falcons’ were saved by junior goalie Andrew Holt, who blocked three of those attempts and watched the others sail high and miss wide as his team won the District 1 tournament match 2-1.

“I’m sure I’ve got less hair and more gray hair than I did at the beginning of the game,” said Falcon head coach Joel Gerlach.

“My guys, they just kept trying to knock it out and get it away from the goal.”

Time of possession and the number of shots on goal were both won by Burlington-Edison. The Tigers controlled the ball, easily getting to the Falcons’ 18-yard box and passing, crossing and shooting from there. South Whidbey (7-6-0 Cascade Conference, 9-7-0 overall) used a bend-but-don’t-break defense that allowed one goal early, then bided its time until junior midfielder Connor McCauley rocketed in a score from about 15 yards away to tie, and junior midfielder Guy Sparkman slipped in the go-ahead goal.

“It was scary, because after you go up you have to play more defensively,” McCauley said. “It was definitely some tense moments there.”

“We definitely weren’t worried about possession in that game.”

The match was tense for South Whidbey. For the first time this season, the Falcons used a defense that didn’t challenge the dribblers near the sidelines until they breached the 18-yard line. South Whidbey’s give was Burlington-Edison’s take, as the Tigers pushed eight and sometimes nine players well past the midfield line. Holt, South Whidbey’s reserve goalie, has defended the net since April 23, when senior goalie Garret Thomson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

“We were playing it so the far-side guy would be open,” Holt said. “We’re a really fast team so we can cover that. I wasn’t too worried.”

“Those corner kicks and free kicks were nerve-wracking.”

To say it was a busy day for Holt is an understatement. The Tigers took more than 20 shots, 14 of which Holt saved.

“Today I was just trying to be on my toes more,” Holt said. “Even if I thought it was going out I’d try to be there just in case, because I’d rather have a corner kick than a goal.”

Burlington-Edison’s first shot was also its only goal and came in the third minute. Falcon junior defender River Ellis missed his kick that would have cleared the ball out of the goalie’s box, and Tiger sophomore Blake Dimock drilled the shot into the left corner of the net.

“That was a new formation we were trying out. We didn’t really understand it in the beginning,” McCauley said.

Burlington-Edison (7-4-2 Northwest Conference, 8-7-2 overall) continued controlling the ball and ticking minutes off the game clock. In the first half, South Whidbey attempted only three shots. The Falcons only needed one in the 31st minute from McCauley that sailed into the upper right corner past Tiger senior goalie Mitchell Kahns. He dribbled to the top of the box, and when no one challenged him, took the open shot with his left foot.

“As soon as it left my foot, I pretty much knew it was going in,” McCauley said. “I wasn’t even thinking.”

The Tigers returned from the halftime break firing a barrage of shots at Holt. Early in the second half, Holt moved from post to post as the Tigers switched the ball from side to side until senior Nathan Haddock fired a shot from 10 yards out. Holt dropped to his knees and saved the goal.

After a long kick from Falcon defender Cameron Coupe, Sparkman watched the ball bounce over his Tiger defender’s head, leaving only grass between him and the goal.

Sparkman chased it down. Kahns stepped out of the goal to grab the ball. Sparkman tapped the ball with his left foot and watched it roll toward an undefended goal, hit the right post, bounce off Tiger senior Chad Spady and into the net.

“I stayed onside and kind of anticipated it. The Burlington-Edison kid came in front of me, but luckily it went over his head,” Sparkman said.

“I’ve been imagining it since getting into the playoffs.”

From there, the Tigers pressed their attack. Burlington-Edison head coach Jay Powers pushed nine players past the midfield line in an attempt to score. The Tigers had their chances, including one shot in the final minute by Dimock that missed the crossbar by less than a foot.

“The last two minutes with a one goal lead isn’t enough,” Sparkman said.

South Whidbey extended its season and was one victory from the 2A state boys soccer tournament. The Falcons travel north this morning to face the Bellingham Red Raiders (7-1-5 Northwest Conference, 9-4-5 overall) at Civic Stadium. The loser does not advance.

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