The Curtis High boys soccer team started the second half of the season off right with a win April 15 over Emerald Ridge in a hard-fought SPSL South contest.
With the game tied, Curtis (6-4-1) right defensive back Alex Whiting found a crease in Emerald Ridge’s defense and nailed home the game-winning goal in the 72nd minute to send the Vikings to a 2-1 road win.
"I saw that I was able to move through (Emerald Ridge’s) defensive line and I just put a shot on goal," Whiting said.
"Alex can play anywhere up the right side and not lose a step," Curtis coach Frank Hankel said.
Opening the second half with a loss is not how Emerald Ridge (3-7-1) wanted to start the final stretch of the season. Especially when it happens in league play.
"We are in the midst of fighting for the fourth spot (in league), and so every game is valuable," Emerald Ridge coach Steve Aguilar said. "Playing (games) back to back didn’t help us at all."
Emerald Ridge lost to Puyallup, 1-0, the day prior.
At the end of the first half of the Jaguars’ game against Curtis, it seemed like it was anybody’s game. But in the final minutes of the half, Emerald Ridge started clicking.
Those final ten minutes of action saw the Jaguars maintain pressure on the Vikings of University Place as they controlled the ball inside Curtis half of the field.
"First half, we really moved the ball around nicely," ER forward Austin McLellan said. "The first time we played them, it was really direct and straight down the middle. This time we spread them all out and got that right side open."
At the 38 minute mark, as Emerald Ridge tried to attack that open right side, Curtis defender Nick Wunderle poked the attempted pass up field before he outran everyone toward Emerald Ridge keeper Austin Bauer.
Wunderle’s first attempt was blocked. But as he fell backward, taking an ER defender and Bauer with him, Wunderle was able tap the ball enough for it to slowly trickle into the goal to give Curtis 1-0 lead.
On the very next series, Emerald Ridge went right back to the play, but this time McLellan found freshman defender Ryan Walton on the back end of his pass.
Walton sent a blistering shot toward Curtis keeper Mason Mahoney, who couldn’t make the save and prevent Emerald Ridge from tying it up at one apiece at the in the 39th minute.
"I was just seeing the ball movement up top and watching the players come toward me as I tried to stay onside and put one away," Walton said.
"I just saw Ryan on the end and he hit a good shot," McLellan added.
That ball movement and ability to control the game makes Aguilar hopeful as Emerald Ridge makes its second run through SPSL South play.
If the Jaguars can put it together like they did those for those key 10 minutes, then there’s a chance to nab that fourth spot heading into sub-districts.
"The thing about this team is that they feed on each other’s tenacity," Aguilar said. "It’s a team game … I think that goal was a good testament to the team mentality. It was good seeing they were playing for each other."