South Whidbey shed blood for its 1A District 1 victory over Mount Baker on Thursday.
Sacrificing their bodies, the Falcon soccer players challenged every header, took contact and gave it, too. It all paid off at the end of the 80-minute match when South Whidbey won, 2-1.
“It’s great for the fans and great for us, there are a lot of seniors on this team,” said Falcon senior Stephen Lyons. “We don’t want to give up playing competitive soccer.”
Spirited play by the Mountaineers and the Falcons carried off the field, too. Adult fans began bickering near the bleachers at game’s end over sportsmanship. Specifically, South Whidbey fans were upset with Mount Baker fans over their reaction to a head-to-head injury Falcon junior Trey Adams suffered. His head bleeding, Adams left the game in the 71st minute and did not return.
His injury came long after the Falcons scored the go-ahead goal in the 51st minute.
South Whidbey led at the end of the first half. Jack Hood threw the ball into the box, where Lyons booted in the loose ball in the 38th.
Things took a turn in Mount Baker’s favor at the second half’s start. The Mountaineers stole possession from the Falcons, who started with the ball, and quickly turned that into a 42nd minute goal by Mountaineer senior Edgar Zavala in the box.
“We come out flat,” said Falcon senior Sam Turpin. “There are very few games we come out hottest in the first half.”
“If we can have two second halves, that would put a hurt on teams.”
South Whidbey fought its way back with through ball after through ball. Finally, one went in for Turpin. Midfielder Guy Sparkman beat several Mountaineers for a loose ball and then lofted it over the defenders. Turpin caught it with his left foot, tapped it to his right where the zipped it into the back of the net.
“You stop thinking about everything else and just focus on putting it in the back of the net,” Turpin said.
In the final 10 minutes, Mount Baker pressed hard on offense. South Whidbey’s defense held, relying on its midfielders to push the ball up. One play showed Sparkman is the Falcons’ vocal leader. Turpin missed a pass from Sparkman, fell trying to recover it and the Mountaineers threw in the ball with Turpin still on the ground, exhausted from nearly 60 minutes of play. Sparkman was having none of it.
“Sam, get up,” Sparkman yelled, like a trainer to a prizefighter.
Three yellow cards were issued in the testy match to Adams, Falcon senior Stephen Lyons and Mountaineer senior Ruslan Zakurdayev.
With the victory, South Whidbey punched its ticket to the tri-district tournament. The past two seasons, the Falcons were eliminated in the 2A District 1 playoffs and failed to advance to the regional round.
The Falcons will look for more sacrifice as they take another step toward the 1A state tournament against Lynden Christian at 2 p.m. Saturday.