If that's the case, then Thomas Jefferson will be undergoing a lengthy coronation today.
The Raiders put on a majestic performance, knocking off Snohomish 3-0 at Sparks Stadium, putting an end to the Panthers' title run.
Friday's combatants were considered the two favorites in the title chase, considering they came into the game with one loss between them. But the Raiders took control right at the start, and the Panthers were never able to recover.
"Too many guys with too many nerves," Snohomish coach Dan Pringrey lamented. "The spotlight was on, guys got nervous and tight, and we didn't play like we have. When we settled the ball down we were good, but a lot of guys were just in a bit of panic mode."
Matthew Cruz, Luis Alvaro Osornio and Brandon Madsen scored for Thomas Jefferson (17-0-4), which advanced to face Union in the championship game at 4 p.m. today at Sparks Stadium.
"They're a good team, we knew it coming in," Snohomish senior midfielder Kieren Raney said. "We lost shape in the first half."
Snohomish (19-2) plays Roosevelt at noon today for third place.
Thomas Jefferson was able to exploit openings in the Snohomish defense, particularly during the first half after Panthers central defender Blake Crutchfield hobbled off injured just moments into the game. The Raiders took the lead in the 13th minute, then put it away with two goals in three minutes midway through the second half.
"They've got some good pace, they have some guys that do some good things," Pingrey said of the Raiders. "Their midfield played very well today. That's where the battle was ultimately won. We struggled a bit there."
From the opening whistle, Thomas Jefferson found gaps in the Snohomish defense, and the Raiders cashed in during the 13th minute.
Thomas Jefferson unlocked the Snohomish defense along the left, opening up a free shot for Alvaro Osornio. Snohomish goalkeeper Ryan Peters made a spectacular diving save to deny Alvaro Osorino, but the ball squirted free to Cruz, who put the ball away past a downed Peters to give Thomas Jefferson a 1-0 lead.
The Panthers settled down for most of the remainder of the half, but the Raiders started finding holes again in the waning minutes, and Snohomish was fortunate not to give up another goal as Madsen and Rodrigo Robles both had chances in close, but couldn't find the right touch.
"It was a lack of organization," Snohomish midfielder Kieren Raney explained about the openings in the Panthers' defense. "We've tried to be as tight as we can back there, but when you're playing quick strikers like that there's a tendency to get wide, and our formation is meant to stay central. We definitely got caught in the first half."
Down a goal and with Crutchfield hobbled, the Panthers threw bodies forward in the second half and created some pressure. However, it resulted in few quality scoring chances, and Thomas Jefferson was dangerous on the break.
It was just a matter of time when, in the 53rd minute, Alvaro Osornio sent a skimming free kick to the far post. Snohomish defender Dekotah Keough, under pressure from Madsen, lunged to try to keep the ball from sneaking in. Instead, the ball deflected in off Keough to make it 2-0.
Three minutes later Thomas Jefferson clinched it. In yet another lightning attack that ripped the Snohomish defense apart, Isidro Prado-Huerta crossed from the right, and Madsen short-hopped it past Peters to punch Thomas Jefferson's ticket to the final.
"We were attacking, but with attacking comes risks," Raney said. "We ended up having to go with a three-back system, and they have incredible strikers. They definitely capitalized on our mistakes."
Snohomish had several good scoring chances late to grab a consolation goal, but they were all either blocked or shot over, summing up the way the game went for the Panthers.
At Sparks Stadium
Goals--Matthew Cruz (TJ), Luis Alvaro Osornio (TJ), Brandon Madsen (TJ). Assists--Isidro Prado-Huerta (TJ). Goalkeepers--Snohomish: Ryan Peters. Thomas Jefferson: McKay Owsley. Records--Thomas Jefferson 17-0-4. Snohomish 19-2.
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