SNOHOMISH — After wreaking havoc on opposing defenses all season long, the Snohomish boys soccer team’s high-powered attack was uncharacteristically held in check during Saturday’s district-championship loss to Lynnwood.
But after rediscovering their offensive rhythm in Monday’s practice, the Panthers bounced back Tuesday night with yet another brilliant goal-scoring display.
Jason Fairhurst recorded two goals and an assist as Snohomish advanced to the Class 3A state quarterfinals with a 5-2 win over Lakeside in a first-round matchup of traditional state powers at Snohomish High School.
“These guys are really fun to watch when they get a good rhythm, and tonight was an example of that,” said first-year coach Matt Raney, who was a longtime assistant in the program prior to this season.
“There’s been points in the season where we’ve lost that rhythm and we’ve had to re-find it. Yesterday’s training session, it was found again. And it was so clear and so obvious. We’re going to look to find that rhythm from here on out.”
The victory advances the Panthers (16-3-0) to the state quarterfinals for the 15th time in the last 19 seasons.
Snohomish will travel to the Tri-Cities later this week to face Kamiakin (11-9-0), which entered the postseason with a losing record but has won four consecutive matches. With a victory over Kamiakin, the Panthers would earn their fifth consecutive state semifinal berth.
In years past, Snohomish’s powerful attack often centered on a few star players. But this season’s team features a balanced array of scoring options, and that certainly was evident Tuesday as four different Panthers found the back of the net.
“I think it causes grief for those who are trying to set up for us, being so balanced,” Raney said. “And our ability to shuffle players in and around the field makes it very difficult to recognize where the attack is coming from. It’s unpredictable.”
Fairhurst began the offensive fireworks in the eighth minute after corralling a throw-in from the left sideline. With his back facing the net, the senior captain gathered the ball, turned and fired home a right-footed rocket for the match’s first goal.
Seven minutes later, Jamie Young received a beautiful through-ball down the right sideline and drew a foul in the box. Logan Stapleton then calmly converted the ensuing penalty kick to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead just 15 minutes into the match.
Justin Blachman put Lakeside (11-8-1) on the board in the 25th minute, but Snohomish answered with another goal shortly before halftime. In the 35th minute, Felipe Cerna sent a cross-field pass to Fairhurst on the right side of the pitch, and the standout forward followed with a right-footed strike that deflected off the hands of Lakeside’s goalkeeper and into the net for a 3-1 Panthers lead.
“It’s a lot of communication, and just the trust that we have in one another,” Fairhurst said of his team’s attack. “We know where people are before we pick our heads up, just playing with guys for so long and (with) the camaraderie of the team.”
Midway through the second half, Snohomish defender Jordan Miller broke up a dangerous Lakeside scoring chance with a sliding save in front of the net that preserved the Panthers’ two-goal advantage.
One minute later, Snohomish sophomore Alex Stigenga broke open the match with a 59th-minute goal on a hard shot that deflected into the net.
Soon after, Fairhurst expertly kept the ball alive near the right corner flag and sent a cross into the box to Nathan Nicholson, who slotted home a 64th-minute goal that extended the Panthers’ lead to 5-1.
It was a major turnaround from Snohomish’s 4-1 district-title loss to Lynnwood on Saturday.
“These guys know that they’re not a product of a single moment, but a compilation of all these moments throughout the season,” Raney said. “And that’s what we’re seeing. Single moments like that loss to Lynnwood in the district final — we all wanted it, but it doesn’t define us, and we know it.
“And so out of that is born a greater determination to solve the puzzle, and tonight was a great example of that.”
Tuesday marked Raney’s first state-playoff victory as a head coach. He took over for longtime coach Dan Pingrey, who stepped down prior to this season after helping build the Panthers into a perennial state powerhouse.
But following the first-round rout, Raney gave all the credit to his players.
“You can set teams up, but they’re only as good as the execution of it,” Raney said, adding, “It boils down to each and every one of these guys doing their job. And tonight, they did their job.
“We encourage them to really focus on the details of their performance, and that the rest will take care of itself. And tonight, that performance was an ‘A.’”