SNOHOMISH — Thursday night represented the battle for regional supremacy within the Wesco 4A boys soccer realm — at least for now — as the top teams from the North and South collided.
On this occasion, it was the North side of Snohomish County’s version of the Mason-Dixon line that proved victorious.
Uriel Herrera scored the game’s only goal as the Snohomish Panthers knocked off the Kamiak Knights 1-0 during a downpour at Snohomish High School.
Thursday’s game pitted the team in first place in the Wesco 4A North (Snohomish) against the team in first place in the Wesco 4A South (Kamiak). Both teams came into the night with comfortable leads in their respective divisions, with Snohomish leading its nearest competitor Lake Stevens by six points, and Kamiak sporting a four-point edge on Mariner, its nearest chaser. Both teams also were perfect in cross-divisional games, with Snohomish coming into the game 4-0 against the South and Kamiak coming in 3-0 against the North. Therefore, the winner of Thursday night’s contest could lay claim to being the team to beat in Wesco.
“There are no bad teams, so we try to play accordingly and take one game at a time,” said Snohomish coach Dan Pingrey, whose team ran its winning streak to seven. “But we knew this would be a good game. Once we moved past Lynnwood (a 4-0 victory Tuesday) this was our focus, and (the Knights) were good. They’re well coached, they’re organized, so this was a big deal. We wanted to step up, and when we play quality teams we want to be the best we can be out there. It was good, I was pleased.”
Snohomish was missing several key players because of injury, including defensive lynchpin Blake Crutchfield and offensive contributors Jose Gaspar and Brennan Judy. However, the Panthers were still well worth their victory as they controlled the ball for much of the game. Snohomish finished with the edge in shots (10-2), shots on goal (3-0), and corner kicks (7-0) as the Panthers played a sound game defensively, despite the difficult conditions.
“It was miserable out there,” Pingrey said. “I haven’t seen it rain like this in a long time. We’ve been working a lot on our touches, and overall I thought our touches were good in very bad conditions. Our fitness and our pressure have been getting better and better, and against a good team I thought overall that was the most consistent defensive effort we’ve put together in the season so far, so I was very pleased with that. And I think we could have had several more (goals), which I think would have changed the game a lot, but to their credit they kept it a tight match.”
Crutchfield is dealing with a knee injury suffered during Snohomish’s 2-0 victory over Mariner on April 9. Meanwhile, Judy suffered a broken ankle Tuesday against Lynnwood and Gaspar has missed the entire season with a broken ankle of his own. However, Pingrey is hopeful all three will recover in time for the postseason, and in the meantime the younger Panthers who are filling in are gaining valuable experience.
“We had two freshmen starting and some sophomores who have been stepping up,” Pingrey said. “So we’re gaining experience, and hopefully we’ll get healthy with three potential starters back for the Wesco playoffs.”
Snohomish took the initiative from the start of Thursday’s game and had the ball in the Kamiak net less than five minutes into the game. Gus Baxter’s centering pass deflected through traffic and ended up at Herrera’s feet at the edge of the penalty box. Herrera looked two steps offside, but the linesman’s flag stayed down and Herrera slotted the ball into the corner to give the Panthers an apparent 1-0 lead. However, after some Kamiak protests, the referee intervened to disallow the goal.
But Herrera wouldn’t be denied in the 14th minute. Snohomish’s leading scorer won a 50-50 ball 35 yards out and immediately unleashed a low drive that found the left corner, giving Snohomish a 1-0 lead.
Snohomish could have made it 2-0 later in the half, but Baxter’s header from a corner whistled wide. Then moments later a miscommunication at the back nearly let the Knights in, but Panthers goalkeeper Ryan Peters was able to intervene just in time, and it remained 1-0 at halftime.
The rain picked up considerably in the second half, making it that much more difficult to control the ball. Kamiak goalkeeper Tristan Bratvold had to make a smart save less than five minutes into the half to keep it a one-goal game, but scoring chances were few and far between afterward as the Snohomish lead was never seriously threatened.
At Snohomish H.S.
Goals—Uriel Herrera. Goalkeepers—Kamiak: Tristan Bratvold. Snohomish: Ryan Peters. Records—Snohomish 9-0 league, 9-1 overall. Kamiak 6-3, 6-4.