The two best goal scorers were wearing their school clothes and standing on the sideline, both with torn ACLs.
One for the Tahoma High School boys soccer team, Cris Garfias, one for Auburn Mountainview, Erik DeAnda.
But Tahoma just wasn’t not going to return to the 4A state tournament – not with the way last season ended.
The Bears will have their chance to make another run to the state championship game thanks to early goals from Gregory Trask and Connor Heintz in a 2-1 victory Thursday to avoid elimination against the Lions in the 4A West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament.
The thought that Tahoma might not return to state …
“That never popped into our minds,” Trask said. “We were just like, ‘We’re going back to state. We got this. We’re going back.
“My senior year, this is the year. This is our last year to get to state and win the championship.”
And they’ll have to do so without Garfias, last year’s 4A SPSL Northeast co-offensive player of the year. The Highline College-bound senior scored 28 goals.
But then more adversity. Tahoma later lost two other starters to torn ACLs.
And it was already entering the season with a first-year coach, Zack Pittis, who came from Cedarcrest of Duvall to take over for Jason Johnson, who left to become the athletic director at Bethel.
“These guys have dealt with some adversity,” Pittis said. “And it’s always been the mentality of, ‘Now this guy is going to play.’ We’ve lost some guys to some severe injuries, but to their credit, guys stepped up and played and they never lost hope and faith in their goal of making it back to the state tournament.”
This will be the Bears’ third consecutive trip to state.
It started because of Trask’s goal in the 12th minute. Robert Guyer’s shot was saved by Auburn Mountainview’s goalkeeper, but Trask was there to clean it up and strike the ball into the back of the net.
“It started the momentum,” Trask said. “The defense started worrying and they were pressured. That was big for momentum.”
And Tahoma stayed on the offensive. Seven minutes later, Heintz got the ball on the run and sent the ball into the net with his left foot for a 2-0 lead.
And Auburn Mountainview was suddenly in a two-goal hole without its best goal-scorer. DeAnda was lost for the season when he tore his ACL in a match against Auburn. He had 26 goals in the Lions’ run to the 3A state tournament last year before moving up to 4A.
He and Tahoma’s Garfias were both on The News Tribune’s All-Area boys soccer team as first-team forwards last season.
But AMV got back in it when Tony Corado-Flores scored a left-footed goal with nine minutes until halftime.
The Lions had a great look to tie it with nine minutes remaining in the match, but Andy Nguyen’s contested shot sailed wide and high to the left of the crossbar from near the right post.
“It was about surviving and advancing tonight,” Pittis said. “We weren’t 100 percent. WE had guys sick and you get to a game where it’s lose or go home and there’s more of an emphasis on just advance. No matter if it’s an ugly game or not the typical style you play. Tonight we did just enough.
“We like to keep control of the ball a little more than we did tonight. It was back and forth and in the air a lot. But that’s the kind of play that was dictated and we needed to do and we did it.”
The loss ended Auburn Mountainview’s season.
Tahoma will play Decatur, which beat Battle Ground to clinch a state berth, at 6 p.m. Saturday at Tahoma for either the No. 5 or No. 7 seed from the district to the state tournament.
The Bears lost to Wenatchee in the state title match last season.
“We really just want to get back up on top and prove ourselves,” Heintz said. “We’re just trying to keep the momentum going.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677