MUKILTEO — On April 7, Cascade High School’s boys soccer team was 1-5-1, and the Bruins thoughts weren’t on how far they’d go in the postseason, but on what it would take to avoid the basement in the Wesco 4A South.
Who could have imagined that five weeks later the Bruins would be punching their ticket to the state tournament?
Samuel Agyei headed in Spencer Bowlden’s long throw-in deep into second-half extra time, giving the Bruins a dramatic 3-2 victory over Kamiak in a 4A District 1 winner-to-state game at Kamiak High School — and writing yet another chapter in Cascade’s remarkable turnaround.
“To be honest with you, not a chance,” first-year Cascade coach Sam Croft responded when asked if he thought his team would make it to state when it was 1-5-1. “It’s taken a turnaround. These guys believe in each other, they believe in the system we run, and they believe they can do things that are greater than just themselves.
“This is a dream season,” Croft added. “These guys are so great. We knew we could run with Kamiak. We knew we could play against them. We just had to build ourselves into actually believing we could. Obviously that was such a fantastic throw (by Bowlden). It’s just awesome.”
Agyei finished with two goals, Bowlden set up two with long throws and Jake Pittsenbarger also scored for Cascade (10-6-2) in an emotionally-charged game. The victory clinched a berth to state and the Bruins advanced to face Snohomish for the district title Thursday at Monroe High School.
Brandon Wright scored both goals for Kamiak (10-5-2), which now faces a tough path to join Cascade at state. The Knights face Mount Vernon on Thursday at Monroe in a loser-out game. If Kamiak survives that, then the Knights would need to beat the Kingco No. 3 to advance to state.
Cascade has taken the underdog role to new heights. Despite their turnaround, the Bruins finished with just the No. 3 seed from the Wesco 4A South, and Cascade needed a dramatic penalty-kick victory Saturday against Lake Stevens just to reach Tuesday’s contest. Then the Bruins faced a road contest against the Knights, who claimed the Wesco 4A South title and took four of a possible six points against Cascade during the regular season.
Then the Bruins needed the full 80 minutes and then some to finally get their victory over the Knights. Cascade scored first and led 2-1 at halftime, but Kamiak had all kinds of scoring chances in the second half and leveled it with 15 minutes remaining on Wright’s second goal of the game. But with overtime looming, the Bruins went back to the recycle bin for the game-winning play.
Cascade scored its second goal late in the first half when Bowlden heaved a mammoth throw to the far post, where Pittsenbarger was unmarked to head it into the corner and give the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
When Cascade received a throw-in deep in Kamiak territory in the dying moments of the second half, Bowlden was summoned again from his defensive position. He sent another laser beam toward the top of the goal box, and this time Agyei found himself free to head home the game-winner.
“This feels awesome, it’s a great experience,” a fired-up Bowlden said. “I love these boys, every single one of them, and I’m so glad we got that final goal. We’ve worked so hard for this every day at practice, every game. We just kept fighting the whole 80 minutes and we finally beat Kamiak.”
Cascade opened the scoring in the 18th minute. Luis Chavez sent a free kick into the Kamiak penalty box, and after the ball dropped and a scramble ensued, Agyei was able to punch it in to make it 1-0.
Kamiak equalized it in the 21st minute. A Bruins defender tackled the ball away from the Knights, but the ball went right into the path of Chance Lord racing toward goal. Lord played the ball across the goal, where Wright tucked it away to knot it at 1-1.
After Pittsenbarger scored in the 32nd minute to give Cascade a 2-1 halftime lead, the Knights came out flying to start the second half. Kamiak had three good scoring chances in the first three minutes, and the Knights had the ball in the Cascade net on a long throw, only for the goal to be ruled out because of a foul.
But the goal was coming and it finally arrived in the 65th minute. Jason Kim popped a ball into the air in front of Wright at the far post. Cascade goalkeeper Scott Pease made an acrobatic save on Wright’s first shot, but Wright was able to put in his own rebound to tie it at 2-2.
It seemed overtime was on tap, but there’s been magic at work for Cascade for more than a month, and that magic kicked in again at the end to send the Bruins to state.
At Kamiak H.S.
Goals—Samuel Agyei (Cas) 2, Jake Pittsenbarger (Cas), Brandon Wright (K) 2. Assists—Luis Chavez (Cas), Spencer Bowlden (Cas) 2, Chance Lord (K), Jason Kim (K). Goalkeepers—Cascade: Scott Pease. Kamiak: Jacob Parker. Records—Cascade 10-6-2. Kamiak 10-5-3.