EVERETT — Jackson midfielder Vincenzo D’Onofrio cracked a smile while divulging his team’s perspective on their all-black home uniforms.
“We say we wear black because it’s their funeral at home,” D’Onofrio said. “We always come out physical, and we know for the first five minutes of the game we got to score an early goal. That’s how we win games.”
The Timberwolves doubled down on one goal in five minutes, producing two in the first 10. Add in a gritty defensive second-half effort and a game-rescuing save by goalkeeper Justin Huttinger, and the Timberwolves are headed to their first state semifinal in program history.
D’Onofrio opened the scoring, Kevin Giessler added another goal minutes later and Jackson held on for a 2-1 Class 4A state tournament quarterfinal win over Federal Way on Friday at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Jackson (18-1-1) has just three previous state appearances (2011, 2001, 1999) with a 2001 quarterfinal representing the school’s best finish. That top mark is no more.
“We’re making history every game,” said D’Onofrio, whose team previously locked up a Wesco 4A title and a 4A Wes-King Bi-District championship. “We say we are making history, and let’s keep going. Let’s win this thing and bring this home for the first time ever.”
Next for Jackson is a matchup with the winner of a Saturday afternoon contest between Inglemoor and Puyallup. The Timberwolves’ state semifinal is slated for 8 p.m on Friday at Puyallup’s Sparks Stadium.
Jackson wasted no time flaunting its skill against Federal Way.
Just under five minutes in, D’Onofrio orchestrated a beautiful goal to give the Timberwolves their quick 1-0 lead. D’Onofrio settled a cross off his chest and to his feet, made a move to his left 10 yards in front of the left post and flicked the ball over his defender’s head to create space before burying a shot on the volley over the head of Federal Way goalkeeper Luke Forsman.
“It was crazy,” D’Onofrio said. “I think that was my best goal of the season.”
Hardly before the awe of D’Onofrio’s goal wore off, Jackson put another ball in the back of the net, this time courtesy of Giessler.
Jackson’s Riley Quarders set up the score with a nice run down the right sideline. He sent a short cross back into the middle of the field that found the feet of Giessler, who turned to his left and put a shot into the bottom-left corner of the net that put Jackson on top 2-0 in the ninth minute.
The Timberwolves controlled most of the first half, but Federal Way finally strung together some threatening sequences in the final minutes. The persistence paid off when Eagles’ Oscar Guzman drew a foul in the box to give teammate Zane Baumgardt a penalty kick.
Baumgardt blasted a shot to the left past Huttinger, trimming the Timberwolves’ lead to 2-1 in the 35th minute.
Jackson went into survive-and-advance mode in the second half. The T-wolves didn’t create a whole lot offensively, but expertly repelled Federal Way time-and-time again.
“We controlled the game,” Jackson coach Sarah Smart said,” we found the corners, we held the ball and played really smart and gritted it out.”
Jackson defenders Danial Aminzadeh, Michael Hatcher and Minhyok Kim were stalwarts along the backline, and Huttinger made a crucial diving save in the 59th minute.
“If Justin hadn’t made that save that he did, we would be talking about a different game,” Smart said. “He kept us in. He kept us engaged and alive, and then it was just a grit effort to finish strong.”
While Jackson’s boys soccer program is enjoying unprecedented success, Smart said the Timberwolves knew they were capable of doing this from the beginning of the year.
That confidence was displayed as Jackson players celebrated their semifinal berth in a quite subdued manner.
“To them, they expected this,” Smart said. “They are that talented. How much can you dig? That is going to be the ultimate test. Just like in this game, the back-and-forth over and over again and their will to summon up the courage and grit to finish the game strong.”