State berth on line when longtime rivals meet for today’s showdown KW, Tahoma brace for rubber match

Tahoma vs. Kentwood. Kentwood vs. Tahoma. Here they go again.

Tahoma vs. Kentwood. Kentwood vs. Tahoma. Here they go again.

They’ve already played twice during the current boys soccer season. But this time, when the two neighborhood rivals step onto the turf, it’ll be more than just a regular-season match. More than even a rivalry match.

This one is for a trip to the Class 4A state tournament. Winner goes. Loser doesn’t.

“There’s nothing that needs to be said. Let’s just go play and take care of it and play our game,” Kentwood coach Aaron Radford said on Wednesday after his Conquerors dropped a 1-0 overtime decision to Puyallup in a South Puget Sound League championship match at Bethel High School that was well worthy of the “championship match” label.

See SOCCER, page 11

That outcome gave Kentwood the league’s No. 2 seed for today’s Class 4A West Central District playoffs. And on this year’s bracket, that means a contest against the No. 5 SPSL seed – a spot which Tahoma earned with a 1-0 shootout victory against Beamer on Wednesday night.

Now, after two tight regular-season battles – both of which were won by the Bears, 3-2 in a hailstorm and 2-1 in much nicer conditions – they’ll meet up again, kicking off today at 11 a.m. at Bethel High.

“We had some rough starts with some players being gone the first few games,” said Tahoma goalkeeper Chad Burgess, who emerged as the hero against Beamer on Wednesday night with two saves on the Titans’ five tries in the penalty-kick shootout. “We just came back on fire, and we’d just like to keep it going.”

Kentwood (11-4-2), the SPSL North Division champion, and Puyallup (13-1-2), the South winner, looked like they were headed for a shootout, as well. The teams spent all 80 minutes of regulation time and the first five-minute golden-goal overtime trading momentum, trading near-misses, and trading just about every other element that factors into a title game.

“We had three potential (goals) that went into the box – they just didn’t go that final foot,” Radford said. “They had some good shots that we blocked. We just couldn’t stop that last one. We put out the best hard-work effort that we could muster up.”

“That last one” came 1 minute, 22 seconds into the second and final OT. After what could have been the winning goal for the Conquerors was kicked off the line 30 seconds into the overtime, the Vikings came back downfield. The ball went into the penalty area restraining arc, where Justin Veltung ran onto it and fired it into the back left corner an instant before Kentwood goalkeeper Mitch Pombrio could get to it.

“One team would get better, then the other team would get some more confidence,” Radford said. “That’s how a first place vs. first place match should play out: down to the wire and slug it out, and see what happens.”

Bears stem the tide

Tahoma and Beamer went down to the wire and then some, playing 90 minutes of scoreless soccer that started out very much in Beamer’s favor before the Bears were able to turn the tide somewhat. And the Bears did it without midfielder and North Division MVP Evan Denmark in the lineup. (He was out for academic reasons.)

“They attacked in waves, and they were dangerous in terms of possession,” Tahoma coach Lance Fischbach said. “The second half got better for us, and they got rattled a bit.”

Darioush Kazemi gave Tahoma the initial lead in the shootout. Then Burgess, who subbed in for starting goalkeeper John Thompson at the start of the second overtime (only players who are on the field at the final whistle can participate in the shootout) saved Beamer’s first try.

The Bears fell behind 2-1 through three rounds when Ryan Chase’s shot was saved and Britton Jolley’s went wide left. James Schmidt knotted it at 2-2 for Tahoma, and Burgess kept it even with another save.

That brought it to the fifth and final round. Brad Hwang drilled his shot into the back left corner for a 3-2 Tahoma lead. Then, Beamer’s Jordan Hale watched his shot bounce off the right side of the crossbar, sealing the win for the Bears.

Putting in Burgess, who was the starting keeper earlier in the season until a change was made to Thompson, was a calculated move on Fischbach’s part.

“We worked on penalty kicks (Tuesday), and he performed better,” Fischbach said.

Like every keeper in that situation, there’s not much in the way of strategy.

Falcons fall

Kentlake’s first trip to the boys soccer playoffs was a short one. The Falcons were eliminted in a shootout by Emerald Ridge on Wednesday night, 1-0.

The teams played to a 0-0 tie through 80 minutes of regulation time and a pair of five-minute golden-goal overtimes.

The Jaguars won the shootout, 2-1.

Kentlake finished the season with a school-best 8-5-4 record. The Falcons took fourth place in the South Puget Sound League North Division at 7-4-3.