Head games

With a corner kick coming in high from the sidelines in tie soccer game in its final three minutes, Kypher Koska needed to catch some air.

With his team knotted at 1-1 with a visiting squad from Sequim Saturday, Koska wanted to prove that the Falcons know how to finish a game. The play — a run for the goal off a corner kick — was something the Falcons had practiced all week. But what they hadn’t accounted for was a ball gone too far airborne. So Koska improvised.

As a kick from sophomore Ethan Lowe soared in front of the goal at nearly twice the players’ height, Koska made a run right up the back of teammate Josh Helpenstell, then pushed off into empty space. Almost empty. In midair, Koska got his head on the ball and knocked it into the Sequim net: 2-1, game over.

What followed was perhaps the most uproarious post-game celebration the boys team has had since making it into the state finals in 1999. There were hugs for Koska, cheers from the crowd, and general yelling and screaming completely uncharacteristic for the Falcons.

After the game, Koska said having his team finish so definitively was a big confidence booster.

“In the past, our team has had a lot of trouble finishing,” he said. “To have this success is big for us.”

That success is also necessary. Now 3-1-2 overall and sitting in second place in the Cascade Conference, the Falcons have been playing close all season, having scored just eight goals in those six games.

One of those goals — the first to go onto South Whidbey’s tally during Saturday’s game — wasn’t even technically scored by a South Whidbey player. On a corner kick from Josh Helpenstell in the first half of the game, the ball bounced loose of both offensive and defensive players, finally being tipped into the goal accidentally by a Sequim defender.

Even so, this is progress, said South Whidbey coach Mark Helpenstell.

“The things we’re doing in the box seem to be paying off,” he said.

And they need to be. The team has taken some hits this season, in terms of personnel losses and injuries. Senior Ben Walker, one of the Falcons’ top two scorers last year, dropped out of the South Whidbey lineup earlier this season due to illness. Meanwhile, senior Kevin Dunigan, the other half of the Falcons’ dynamic scoring duo last season, is on the bench with an injury.

Helpenstell said his players are training to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way, because they need to capitalize on those opportunities to win.

The Falcons play next on Saturday. They travel to the home field of former North Cascades Conference rival Nooksack for a non-conference game.

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