MARYSVILLE — After some early fireworks, the Marysville Pilchuck and Snohomish boys soccer teams settled into a hard-fought stalemate.
The Tomahawks and Panthers traded a pair of goals in the opening 10 minutes before playing to a 1-1 draw Saturday afternoon in a physical early season Wesco 3A/2A showdown at Quil Ceda Stadium.
“That has some potential to be a preview of what’s to come later (if) these two teams meet (again),” Snohomish coach Matt Raney said. “(We) matched up well against each other.”
The conference clash pitted Wesco 3A/2A’s top two teams from last year, when Marysville Pilchuck finished two points ahead of the second-place Panthers to claim the league title.
In the teams’ lone meeting last season, the Tomahawks rolled to a stunning 6-0 rout, handing perennial powerhouse Snohomish its worst loss in years.
Saturday’s rematch was much more competitive, ending in a deadlock after 80 minutes of regulation and two five-minute overtime periods.
“These are two really evenly matched teams,” Marysville Pilchuck coach Paul Bartley said. “… We had opportunities, and we didn’t put them away. And they had opportunities, and they didn’t put theirs away. It was a good, well-fought game.”
Snohomish senior Ethan Hood opened the scoring with a creative eighth-minute goal.
After the ball bounced off a nearby teammate on the left side of the pitch, Hood poked the ball out of the air with a perfectly placed right-footed shot from about seven yards out, sending it past Marysville Pilchuck’s goalkeeper and into the right netting for an early 1-0 Panthers lead.
“Ethan has worked so hard this offseason to be ready to compete and participate for the high school,” Raney said. “I’m so proud of him for that work that went on long before he even set foot out on this field. So for him to be able to accomplish that today is just confirmation that things are moving in the right direction for this young man, and I’m so proud of him for that.”
It didn’t take long for the Tomahawks to erase the early deficit.
Only one minute later, Marysville Pilchuck junior Douglas Cruz-Young launched a deep free kick from about 45 yards out. The ball bounced once inside the 18-yard box and then hit off the crossbar, ricocheting back in front of the net.
Off the rebound, senior forward Kyle Matson slotted home the deflection to give the Tomahawks (5-0-1 overall, 3-0-1 Wesco 3A/2A) a ninth-minute equalizer.
“Marysville is a very passionate side, they’re a hard-working side (and) they’re very skilled, technically beautiful players,” Raney said. “And to take them down, someone’s going to have to be super organized, match that passion and score early against them. We did that, but you can’t make mistakes.”
Marysville Pilchuck had an opportunity to pull in front on a penalty kick midway through the first half, but Snohomish senior goalkeeper Michael Herrera made a diving save on a low roller to his left.
It was one of a handful of key saves by Herrera, who stymied several promising Tomahawks scoring chances to keep the match deadlocked.
“He’s an incredible goalkeeper,” Raney said. “I think he’s the best in the conference, … and he proves it every time he comes out and plays. He makes big-time saves in big-time matches, and he did that today.”
Marysville Pilchuck senior goalkeeper Eric Ibanez also made a clutch save in the first half, showing quick reflexes by reaching his hand up while on the ground to knock away a dangerous redirected shot in front of the net.
With the draw, both teams remained unbeaten.
Despite graduating six starters from last year’s league championship team, Marysville Pilchuck has outscored opponents by a 17-4 margin while navigating a challenging opening slate with five wins in its first six matches.
Snohomish (2-0-3, 1-0-2) graduated four all-conference players from last season’s squad, which claimed a district title and advanced to the Class 3A state quarterfinals. Despite those key departures, the Panthers also have played well thus far, outscoring opponents 11-4 through their first five matches.
Both teams figure to be major factors not only in the conference-title race, but in the battle for state berths during the district tournament. And it’s certainly possible that when the postseason rolls around, these two squads could see each other again.
“Overall, it’s early in the year and we’re still feeling things out,” Bartley said. “It was a good game.”