Tahoma strikes down Kentwood

After a slow start to their boys soccer season, seems just about everyone had given up on the Tahoma Bears.

After a slow start to their boys soccer season, seems just about everyone had given up on the Tahoma Bears.

Except the Bears themselves.

Now, instead of being on the outside looking in, the Bears are on the inside looking up – and not very far up at that.

Tyson Ellis set up two textbook goals off of free kicks last Friday night as Tahoma proved that lightning really could strike twice – in a manner of speaking – with a 2-1 victory against Kentwood at Maxwell Stadium.

That marked the second time in less than a month that the Bears knocked off the South Puget Sound League North Division-leading Conquerors. In a game on March 31 that was delayed three times by lightning, Tahoma scored twice during the final five minutes on the hail-covered turf at French Field to pull out a 3-2 victory.

“We’ve come together as a team. We’ve started to pass the ball around a lot better and started getting the ball to our forwards,” said junior Bryan Cackette, who occupies one of those forward spots and headed in the second of Ellis’ free kicks, his coming just 3:22 into the second half to snap a 1-1 tie.

Added Bears coach Lance Fischbach, “It was a great effort and I’m happy for the guys. People have kind of written us off. But the group that didn’t (write us off) was the team.”

Tahoma picked up just two of a possible 12 points in its first four games, going 0-2-2. On the winter-like night of that first Kentwood game back on March 31, the Bears nearly went home with another loss, down 2-1 at halftime when the lightning began, the hail fell – and the referee initially decided to call the game, which would have cemented that 2-1 score in Kentwood’s favor.

But when the ref changed his mind and decided to continue with the game after clearing the hail off the soccer lines on the field, the Bears changed their fortunes. Their victory that night was the first win in an unbeaten streak that now has reached 10 games.

Now, Tahoma (6-2-4, 22 points) is within one point of second-place Jefferson (7-2-2, 23 points) and just three in back of Kentwood (8-2-1, 25). Tahoma visited TJ on Tuesday (results unavailable), then closes the season on Friday at home against Decatur.

Kentwood began the week looking at three games to wind up regular-season play: Tuesday against Kentlake, tonight at Jefferson in the make-up of a game that was canceled because of a snowy field on March 28, and Friday at Kentridge.

“That was playoff intensity,” Fischbach said of last Friday’s rematch against the Conquerors. “We felt we had to get at least a point (out of it.).”

“They looked like a team that has made a playoff run – their work rate and eagerness and intensity,” Kentwood coach Aaron Radford said of the Bears. “The run of play balanced itself out, but they capitalized on two set pieces.”

Tahoma, which scored just 2:27 into the game, was set up by Ellis’ free kick about 30 yards up near the left sideline. He floated it toward the upper left corner of Kentwood goalkeeper Mitch Pombrio’s front porch, and James Schmidt went up and headed it across the goalmouth and into the opposite corner.

The Conquerors went the first 13 ½ minute of the game before getting off their first shot. But from that point, they kept the pressure on, finally equalizing it at 31:59. Michael Fuller sent a perfectly placed through-ball toward the top of the penalty-area restraining arc. Danny Brill pursued it for Kentwood, while Tahoma goalkeeper John Thompson raced toward the top of the box from the other direction.

Brill got there first, went one-on-one against Thompson, got the ball behind him and watched it roll into the back left corner.

In the first significant action of the second half, Ellis took a free kick 38 yards up from the goal line, way out on the left side. He launched this one toward the far post, where Cackette headed it home for his second goal of the week and of the season.

The 10-game unbeaten streak has not only been enough to get Tahoma into the postseason picture. It has been enough to make them practically forget that at one time, they were 0-2-2.

“Our morale was kind of down (at that time), but I didn’t think we were out of it,” senior midfielder and co-captain Evan Denmark said. “We kept our spirits high.”

• ALSO: Kentlake moved closer to clinching its first-ever playoff spot with a 6-0 rout of Kent-Meridian last Friday. Tyler Wright scored two goals, and Roberto Morales tallied a goal and two assists for the Falcons (6-4-2, 20 points), who remained in possession of the fourth and final playoff spot in the SPSL North, two points ahead of Kentridge. The Falcons took on Kentwood on Tuesday (results unavailable), the wind up the regular season on Friday at home against Jefferson.