EVERETT — With a chance at school history on the line, the M-P faithful turned out in droves to watch their Tomahawk soccer team wrest control of the league from a physical Cascade team.
In a come-from-behind victory, M-P broke the tie for first place and seized control of its destiny, with the school’s first-ever conference championship and an automatic berth to the state tournament on the line.
It looked like M-P would strike first blood when sophomore midfielder Brady Ballew charged the net in the 10th minute, but the play was whistled dead before the ball rolled in. The teams scrapped and clashed for another 25 minutes before Cascade forward Jeff Gosslee beat Tomahawk keeper Erik Cruz and ended M-P’s four-game shutout streak.
But rather than roll over, the Tommies changed their tactics.
“At some point we started going away from our game plan, so we started to throw their game plan at them,” said M-P coach Geoff Kittle.
M-P got ready for their first match against Cascade by practicing and defending restarts. It paid off when the Tommies’ scored in the 51st minute off a corner kick, a patented Cascade scoring technique. Off a Ballew kick-in, senior midfielder Nick Burdett put the ball in the air and junior Seth Jones headed it in.
After a rough and tumble game, the cards started falling against Cascade in the second half, literally. With less than 13 minutes left, one Bruin was called for a collision with Tomahawk defender Brian Nobach. Another call with less than five minutes pending set up a short-range penalty kick on the Bruin goal. Burdett was set to kick and delivered, averting overtime and all but assuring M-P the win.
Nobach, the team co-captain with Burdett, drew the praise of his coach for his defense of Gosslee, Cascade’s leading scorer.
“We were expecting a physical battle, but we stepped up and controlled them,” said Nobach, a senior and veteran of the Western Conference rivalry. “We just knew we had to keep our heads, … we had to match their intensity.”
While M-P had already topped big foes like Snohomish and Monroe earlier in the season, Kittle described the rivalry with Cascade as a major one.
“It’s the final mental hurdle for them,” Kittle said of his team that, with the win, has now beaten everyone in the league at least once. “Especially getting that here on their field.”
While the Tomahawks have control of the race for first place, they can’t afford losses in their last two games when they face Arlington and Oak Harbor.