Panthers build on their dynasty, win district title

MONROE — When the Snohomish High School boys soccer team was done celebrating in front of its fans and returned to the sidelines, the 4A District 1 championship trophy unfortunately was found to be in two pieces.

But that’s all right for the Panthers. They have plenty of spares.

Snohomish claimed yet another district title as the Panthers defeated the red-hot Cascade Bruins 1-0 in the championship game Thursday night at Monroe High School.

And they did so despite breaking the trophy.

“I think we’ve broken it every year we’ve won it,” Snohomish coach Dan Pingrey said with a smile.

The district title was the third straight for the Panthers, who have built themselves into a Wesco 4A dynasty.

“This is great,” said Snohomish senior Uriel Herrera, who scored the game’s only goal. “I’ve had the luck to have great players with me over the years. This is another (district title), and hopefully there’s more to come.”

Snohomish was the class of Wesco during the regular season, losing just once during league play and running away with the Wesco 4A North title. Thursday’s district championship reaffirmed the Panthers’ position at the apex.

“This was a battle,” Pingrey said “It was a grinder for both teams. To get a championship in that kind of environment is good for all of us.

“We handled it well,” Pingrey added. “Our depth is much better. We’re throwing freshmen in there at the end of the match who haven’t really played, and they performed for us. That’s huge. I’m very excited about the way they handled. They’re a little bruised and battered, but it’s good.”

The Panthers (16-2) take the district’s top seed to state and will host the District ¾ No. 5 seed in the first round.

While Snohomish won the title, Cascade gave the Panthers all they could handle. The Bruins, who began the season 1-5-1, had lost just once since. Cascade played Snohomish much tougher than during the regular season, when the Panthers walloped the Bruins 4-0.

Cascade even had a chance at the last gasp to force overtime. In second-half extra time, the Bruins had a free kick at midfield. After one pass the ball was played overt the top into the Snohomish penalty box, where it found Jorge Heredia wide open behind the defense. But Heredia’s drive whistled just wide, and Snohomish was able to salt away the remainder of the game.

“I couldn’t be more proud,” Cascade coach Sam Croft said. “It’s a little emotional, they played their guts out. This is an absolutely fantastic Snohomish team, this team was our barometer. We just played them 1-0 and could easily have beat them or at least tied it up. I’m so excited going into state, but right now I’m just a little bummed. I’m thinking we could have pulled this one off.”

Cascade (10-7-2), the No. 3 seed from the Wesco 4A South which had already clinched a state playoff berth, will be the district’s No. 2 seed. That means the Bruins will have to travel to face the No. 3 seed from District ¾ in the first round at state.

There were few scoring chances in the first half, with Snohomish largely settling for long-range efforts and the Panther defense frustrating Cascade star forward Samuel Agyei.

But the Panthers finally found the breakthrough in the 23rd minute. Blake Crutchfield, playing in just his second game since missing half the season with a broken leg, heaved a long throw-in from the right sideline toward the near post. Herrera flicked a header toward goal, and although the Cascade defense tried to scramble the ball off the goal line, it had already crossed it as Snohomish took a 1-0 lead.

Herrera nearly doubled Snohomish’s lead 11 minutes into the second half, but Cascade goalkeeper Scott Pease made a point-blank save. Then in the ensuing scramble, Jack McCunn put a shot over the crossbar and it remained 1-0.

Pease kept it a one-goal game late in the second half with a pair of big saves. First, Herrera weaved his way past three Cascade defenders as he cut across goal, but then pulled his shot back into Pease. Then moments later the Panthers had a free kick just outside the penalty box, and they set up a shot by Crutchfield that Pease had to sprawl out to save.

At Monroe H.S.

Goals—Uriel Herrera (S). Assists—Blake Crutchfield (S). Goalkeepers—Cascade: Scott Pease. Snohomish: Ryan Peters. Records—Snohomish 16-2. Cascade 10-7-2.

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