Not only does a central defender serve as perhaps the Panthers' best generator of offense, but in a sport played with one's feet that weapon is a pair of arms.
Blake Crutchfield's long throw-ins were too much for the Camas Papermakers to handle, and Snohomish advanced to the 4A state semifinals by winning 3-1 Saturday evening at Snohomish High School.
"It feels great," Crutchfield, a sophomore, said about reaching the final four. "It's fun coming out here and competing against a good squad like that. I was hoping for the best, and we got lucky with some things."
Snohomish scored three goals in four minutes midway through the first half to grab a stranglehold on the game, and two of those goals were a direct result of Crutchfield's booming 40-yard throws.
"The long throws are dangerous," said Snohomish coach Dan Pingrey, who estimated the Panthers have scored between 12 and 15 goals off long throws this season. "We have it and we take advantage of it.
"It's fantastic," Pingrey added. "We've had three Crutchfields in this program over the years and they've all been able to do that. It changes the game."
Dekotah Keough also scored for Snohomish (19-1), which spent much of the game controlling play in midfield. Once the Panthers went ahead, there seemed little danger Snohomish would surrender that lead.
"We played very well," Crutchfield said. "At times it's kind of hard to get momentum. But once we got it back and started knocking the ball around and getting in our own groove, things started clicking for us."
The Panthers advanced to face Thomas Jefferson in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
Houston Taie scored the lone goal for Camas, which finished its season 15-5.
Snohomish had just taken a 1-0 lead when Crutchfield's aerial bombardment from the sidelines burned the Papermakers. In the 18th minute Crutchfield fired a throw toward goal from the left sideline. Camas goalkeeper Sharif Batroukh reached up to catch the ball, but it slipped through his hands and into the net to double Snohomish's lead.
Another two minutes later and Crutchfield was at it again. This time his goal-bound throw, from the identical spot on the sidelines, glanced off the top of Camas defender Lucas Ulmer's head at the near post and into the net.
Both goals were credited as Camas own goals, but nevertheless they gave Snohomish a 3-0 lead that effectively ended the game as a contest.
"I wasn't trying to do that," Crutchfield said. "It was lucky. I'm glad it happened and helped put us through. I'd do anything to help the team win."
Snohomish opened the scoring in the 16th minute. A Panthers corner kick was headed goalward by Kieren Raney. Keough stabbed his foot at the ball and tipped it past Batroukh to give Snohomish a 1-0 advantage.
Camas began to show some life in the second half after falling behind 3-0, and the Papermakers got on the scoreboard in the 64th minute when Taie put a free kick from 25 yards out in off the post. But the Panthers successfully salted away the remainder of the game to advance to the semis.
At Veterans Memorial Stadium
Goals--Dekotah Keough (S), Camas own goal 2, Houston Taie (C). Assists--Kieren Raney (S), Blake Crutchfield (S) 2. Goalkeepers--Camas: Sharif Batroukh. Snohomish: Ryan Peters. Records--Snohomish 19-1. Camas 15-5.
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