However, the Kamiak Knights decided they'd take the higher math out of play.
Kamiak claimed the Wesco 4A South title outright by defeating the Mariner Marauders 2-1 Wednesday night at Kamiak High School.
“This is great, I'm so proud of these guys,” first-year Kamiak coach Kosta Pitharoulis said. “We're bringing a little pride back to the Kamiak soccer program. But we should be congratulating all the guys because I didn't really do anything, I just stood there. They get all the praise, they worked hard.”
Going into Wednesday's final night of the regular season, there were still three teams with a chance of claiming a piece of first place, including the enticing possibility of a a three-way tie for first between Kamiak, Mariner and Cascade.
But Kamiak, which came into the day in pole position, ensured there was no need for tiebreakers to determine the top seed to the district tournament. Dalton Holdt and Brandon Wright scored goals as the Knights (10-3-2 league, 10-4-2 overall) won an enthralling back-and-forth affair to finish six points above the fray.
“It feels pretty good,” Kamiak senior co-captain Nate Littrell said about claiming the title. “It's the first time in five years (for Kamiak), and nobody on this team has won a championship before, so it's a great feeling.”
Kamiak also earned the South's top seed to districts and the first-round bye that comes with it. The Knights host the winner between North No. 2 Lake Stevens and South No. 3 Cascade on Tuesday.
“I thought we played pretty good,” Littrell said about Wednesday's performance. “It wasn't one of our best games, but we played hard, won balls in the air and got the win.”
Joel Cruz-Guzman scored with the last kick of the game for Mariner (8-5-2, 8-5-2). The Marauders, who would have claimed the top seed with a victory Wednesday, managed to hold onto the No. 2 seed to district thanks to Cascade's 4-1 loss to Edmonds-Woodway. Mariner held the tiebreaker against the Bruins and now hosts North No. 3 Mount Vernon on Saturday.
Wednesday's game featured a contrast in styles, with the Knights using their height advantage to attack from set pieces, while the Marauders constantly bombed away with shots from distance.
It was one of those set pieces that finally broke the ice in the game's 20th minute. Kamiak had a free kick 40 yards out and it seemed too far away for a shot, but Zach Bush decided to hammer a low knuckler right on goal. Mariner goalkeeper Silvan Katynskiy was only able to parry the shot aside and Holdt, following the shot, was able to put in the rebound to give the Knights a 1-0 lead.
Mariner started to gain control of the game early in the second half, and with Kamiak goalkeeper Tristan Bratvold visibly ailing because of a leg injury, the Marauders tested him with shots from distance. Edgar Navarro skimmed the crossbar with a dipping drive, and Edward Katynskiy had a free header that bounced just over. Bratvold had to leave the game after that, and with the Knights having no back-up goalie on hand, Simon Forster was drafted into emergency goalkeeping duties.
But the Knights soon regained their stride and doubled their lead in the 65th minute. Nathan Selbeck wriggled free on the left and crossed into the box. Silvan Katynskiy couldn't hold the cross, and in the ensuing battle for the loose ball Wright was just able to force it in to make it 2-0.
Mariner pressed late, and in extra time lofted ball into the box. It was flicked to the far post where Cruz-Guzman was able to put it in to get the Marauders back within one. But the final whistle was blown on the ensuing kickoff, and the Knights celebrated their title.
“We were really banged up and had lots of injuries, so I thought the boys stuck it out well,” Pitharoulis said. “It was a clean game, both teams battled, and it was a team effort.
“We were tenacious up front,” Pitharoulis added. “Mariner was shooting from distance quite a bit, and we were really trying to get in behind them. Our forwards and midfielders just worked their tails off.”
At Kamiak H.S.
Goals—Dalton Holdt (K), Brandon Wright (K), Joel Cruz-Guzman (M). Assists—Zach Bush (K), Chance Lord (K), Eyosiyas Atsmeyorgis (M). Goalkeepers—Kamiak: Tristan Bratvold, Simon Forster. Mariner: Silvan Katynskiy. Records—Kamiak 10-3-2 league, 10-4-2 overall. Mariner 8-5-2, 8-5-2.
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