Penalty kick boots Falcon soccer from automatic state berth

South Whidbey junior defender Anders Bergquist is hit as he tries to block King’s junior Josh Alexander’s goal in the second half of the 1A District 1 title match May 10. Falcon junior Tom Swanson looks on from the far post.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
South Whidbey junior defender Anders Bergquist is hit as he tries to block King’s junior Josh Alexander’s goal in the second half of the 1A District 1 title match May 10. Falcon junior Tom Swanson looks on from the far post.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

The joy of taking an early lead was short lived for the South Whidbey boys soccer team in the 1A District 1 title match Saturday against King’s, which won 3-2.

All of the excitement of taking a 1-0 edge in the winner-to-state game ended 12 minutes later when King’s scored the tying goal. Then, four minutes later, South Whidbey’s players were glum, when King’s took a 2-1 lead on a penalty kick that was awarded for an intentional handball penalty in the box.

King’s sophomore Forrest Perry fired his penalty shot to the right corner of the goal. Falcon junior goalie Charley Stelling dove and blocked the shot, which ricocheted back to Perry, who booted it in to the left while Stelling was still reeling from the save.

“My heart just sank,” said Falcon sophomore Lucas Leiberman, who scored South Whidbey’s first goal. “I was just shocked, ‘What just happened?’ When Charley saved it, I was like ‘Yes!’ That second one, there was nothing we could do about that.”

The handball, deemed intentional by the field judge, by Falcon junior Bryce Auburn was a red card offense because he was in the goal box. Red card penalties are accompanied by ejection, and South Whidbey was limited to 10 players on the field instead of the standard 11 for the entire second half.

During halftime, South Whidbey’s coaches and players tried to improve Auburn’s and their own moods by giving a “1-2-3 Bryce” cheer before retaking the field.

“We told him to forget about it and move on,” said Falcon junior Oliver Saunsaucie. “It didn’t hurt the team.”

Through much of the second half, however, the Falcons limited personnel dogged them. The Knights, already with a 2-1 lead and an apparent edge possessing and passing the ball, were able to space themselves to keep the Falcons on the move. Over time, it just exhausted South Whidbey’s players.

“After running around on defense trying to stop their outlets, once you get the ball, it’s hard to get a good touch on it,” Leiberman said.

King’s took a commanding midway through the second half. Knights junior Josh Alexander took a deflected ball near the right post and knocked it in past the Falcons defenders. One of the major issues that plagued South Whidbey in its quest for the District 1 title — and its accompanying berth to the 1A state tournament — was King’s players’ height advantage. On corner kicks or near-goal throw-ins, the Knights were often the first to the ball.

“It’s really hard to mark up this team because they’re so averagely taller than us,” Saunsaucie said. “So you just have to body up.”

Being shorter than his marked player was also an issue for Leiberman, one of the smaller Falcons who had to fight his way through the taller Knights midfielders.

“On free kicks and everything, we try everything we can to get a head [on the ball], but our height — it kills us,” Leiberman said. “Every team always has a guy taller than us.”

By the 60th minute, South Whidbey found some momentum and rattled off a handful of shots on goal. Late in stoppage time, Falcon junior Andy Zisette dribbled down the right sideline with the ball, beat a pair of defenders and fired in a goal to cut the lead to 3-2. But regulation time ran out mere seconds later, and King’s emerged as the 1A District 1 champions.

“We tied them in the second half with nine guys,” Leiberman said. “The fact that we got that goal, that was satisfying.”

“We’re still in it.”

South Whidbey played Cascade Christian at Kamiak High School in the loser-out first round of the 1A tri-district tournament Tuesday after The Record went to press.


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