Todd Beamer High School boys soccer coach Joel Lindberg probably won’t hear the end of it from his senior defender. Luke Gregg has been pleading to get a shot as a forward all season
"He always says that if he was a forward he would score more goal than any of them," Lindberg said.
He got his chance on Friday – and scored the most memorable goal of his life.
It came on a corner kick with three minutes remaining in double overtime of the 4A state quarterfinals. Gregg received a perfectly placed header from JJ Allen and struck it into the net before he was surrounded by ecstatic teammates.
It was the deciding goal that secured the No. 2 Titans a spot in Puyallup’s Sparks Stadium for the state semifinals with the 2-1 victory against Kamiak at Mariner High School.
"I just thought there’s no way I’m going to miss this," Gregg said. "I haven’t had a chance like that this year and I had to put it away."
It was his third goal of the season.
But he’s been a difference maker for Beamer on the backline, especially Friday against Kamiak’s dangerous long throw ins.
"We don’t get out of this game without Luke,’ Lindberg said. "There some things that Luke gets to that you don’t know how he gets to.
"The way he’s stepped up this year from last year – I see a new confidence. I see a new player in him. He takes on the responsibility and he owns and he’s loving it."
And for the second time in school history and first since 2008, Beamer (17-1-1) is headed to the Final Four. It will face the winner of Saturday’s match between Glacier Peak and Skyline at 6 p.m. on Friday in Puyallup.
That 2008 team had Sean Okoli, who now plays in the MLS for New York City FC after playing at Wake Forest University. And it had six other players go on to play NCAA Division I soccer.
This one didn’t even make the playoffs last year – and lost 12 players from a team that finished with six wins and was second-to-last in the league standings.
"I’ve been dying to do this," said Lindberg, a 1999 Puyallup graduate who is in his second season as the Titans’ head coach. "They came in from the beginning and bought into this family idea and working together. Nobody is going for their own glory. They’ve been putting in hard work in practice all year and it shows on the field."
Before leaving the huddle, Beamer’s players always chant two phrases.
First, "Beamer." Then, "Family."
And Lindberg said that’s what’s taken Beamer from sitting out last year’s playoffs to guaranteeing it will play on the final day of the season, either for the 4A state championship or a third-place trophy on Saturday in Puyallup.
"I watch the state tournament every year, even when we’re not in there," Lindberg said. "The teams that find their way through in the 85th or 87th minute are the teams that have stuck together the whole time. They aren’t bickering on the field. It’s a belief in each other. It’s not about this player or that player – it’s about all of them."
Another key for the Titans: junior midfielder JJ Allen.
He scored the game-winning penalty kick in the first round against Bothell. And then he has this assist to Gregg in the 87th minute against Kamiak.
It was his seventh assist of the season to go along with his 18 goals. Allen spent last spring training with the Crossfire Premier academy team, skipping his high school season.
So what brought him back to Beamer’s soccer team?
"I wanted to play high school and just represent my school," Allen said. "I love my school and to make our fans happy. And I’m good friends with a lot of these guys."
Any regrets so far?
"No," he said. "It’s amazing. Probably one of the funnest times I’ve had playing soccer in my life. I don’t regret it.
"I knew we were going to be good. I’ll say that. But now I have every belief that we can win state."
Dylan Alley scored the first goal of the match in the third minute, on a tie up just in front of the net. He just got the ball to cross the goal line.
Kamiak tied it in the 39th minute, with one minute remaining until halftime. The Knights, who beat Olympia, 4-0, in the first round, had 17 shots to Beamer’s 12, but Titans goalkeeper Brandon Locke had 12 saves to keep the match scoreless in the second half and through the first five-minute overtime period.
"It was hard to defend against that all game," Lindberg said. "Any throw in inside the 50 we’re in the box on a set piece. I’m really proud of how they stood up to it all game."
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677