Falcon season on the brink after shootout loss

Falcon goalie Charley Stelling leaps to catch a corner kick against Cascade Christian on May 13 at Kamiak High School.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Falcon goalie Charley Stelling leaps to catch a corner kick against Cascade Christian on May 13 at Kamiak High School.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

South Whidbey’s boys soccer season is on the brink of ending after a 2-1 shootout loss to Blaine on Thursday.

A foul on Falcon junior striker Kai da Rosa in the goal box gave South Whidbey a one-on-one penalty shot from 12 yards out. Davin Kesler, a junior midfielder, drilled the ball into the back of the net to take a 1-0 lead. Blaine tied the game on a late goal off a free kick from about 25 yards out. The ball hit one of Blaine’s players’ backs and ricocheted into the net for the tying score in the 76th minute, said Falcon co-head coach Emerson “Skip” Robbins. The late goal and eventual penalty kick shots were insult to near-injury for Robbins, who chided Blaine for what he described as excessively physical play, such as a hit to da Rosa’s neck.

“It’s one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever coached,” he said, adding that two yellow cards were issued to different Borderites.

“A hard foul is different than a dirty foul,” he added.

The Falcons played in their second consecutive shootout after defeating the Cascade Christian Cougars 4-3 on Tuesday after a 6-5 penalty kick advantage.

Standing 12 yards away gave Falcon junior goalie Charley Stelling only a second to read where the ball would be kicked, and that was all the time he needed to block the shot and nearly secure South Whidbey’s win.

Jaidin Jones, a senior Falcon forward who had already scored two goals in regulation, took the sixth penalty shot and drilled the ball low and to the left past the Cougars’ keeper. His penalty score lifted South Whidbey 4-3 over Cascade Christian (Puyallup) and sent the Falcons to the next round of the 1A tri-district tournament Thursday, a loser-out match against Blaine.

“After Charley blocked the fifth one, the pressure was on and it was obviously a big deal,” Jones said of his penalty kick score.

“I’m still in a little shock that I made such an impact on the game,” he added. “I felt like the spotlight was indirectly on me in those little moments. As a senior this would have been my last game had I not pulled through.”

The victory was a mirror replay of last year’s state-qualifer match in the tri-district tournament between Cascade Christian and South Whidbey. In that match last year, the Cougars got the block that secured the win and sent them to the state tournament and ended the Falcons’ season. As the game wore on and South Whidbey lost the lead and tied the score late in regulation, some of the returning players said they began thinking back on that heart-wrenching loss.

“I’m just glad we could pull it off this year,” said Stelling, who was a reserve player on the 2013 squad.

In this year’s match, momentum swung from team to team. From the onset, South Whidbey appeared to have a firm handle on the game with a quick score by Andy Zisette.

Cascade Christian answered in the 26th minute after Stelling stepped out of the box to challenge a long ball but was beat to it for an open-goal score.

Jones scored his first goal of the night in the 31st minute through a scrum in the box. Playing through an unusually hot day in the high 70s, by the end of the first half both teams appeared worn and in need of a break with players failing to catch up to the ball or move with urgency to retrieve it from out of bounds.

Out of the halftime rest, South Whidbey rattled off a couple of quick shots on goal by sophomore Lucas Leiberman. Cascade Christian responded with a series of shots on goal, punctuated by a goal on a header off a deep free kick that crossed into the penalty area.

Eight minutes later, Cascade Christian took the lead on a shot off a long cross in the 68th minute that seemed to spell doom for South Whidbey’s season.

But fight remained in the Falcons. A formation change resulted in four players upfield for South Whidbey. Andy Zisette took the ball down the right sideline, streaked past a pair of defenders and crossed the ball near the end line into the box where Jones took it on a bounce and fired it in with his right foot.

“The second one was lucky,” Jones said of his first score. “I was glad that I got around. The third goal, I was feeling it. I came in and got a little bounce and swung it in and it flew past him.”

The tying score sent the game into two five-minute bonus periods in which the first team to score would win. But neither was able to generate much offense, pushing the game to a penalty kick shootout.

The first five shooters for each team scored, extending the shootout to a sixth kicker. Cascade Christian’s sixth shot was low and to Stelling’s left, right where he leapt to block the shot, sending the Falcons and their fans into an uproar.

“Very stressful moment back there, very rough,” Stelling said. “I’m glad Jaidin made that equalizer in the last minutes of the game.”

“The last guy that I blocked, I read him and it was pretty successful,” he added.

After that, it was Jones and his two-goal kicking prowess that secured South Whidbey’s victory.

South Whidbey will play a loser-out, winner-to-state match against Charles Wright Academy at 1 p.m. Saturday at Interlake High School in Seattle.


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