Seeded an underdog coming into the game, Tahoma didn’t play the part Thursday, thoroughly handling SPSL rival Thomas Jefferson, 2-0, to secure another state birth.
“TJ is a tough side, and we dropped a game early in the season and it was the matchup we were looking for,” Tahoma coach Jason Johnson said. “I think we learned our lessons from them, and since that game we dropped, I think playing better and better.
“Tonight, I think we played calm, composed and our leaders stepped up. Our experience in our young players is finally starting to show. And my goalkeeper today, I think he played his best game of the year.”
The game went back and forth at the beginning; it took Tahoma 13 minutes to find the early lead.
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Getting played in by Charlie Wilcox, Tahoma’s star junior Cris Garfias netted his 26th goal of the season.
With Jefferson goalkeeper Hunter Bowman coming off his line to close the angle, Garfias softly placed the ball to the far side netting, giving the Bears a 1-0 advantage.
“It calmed us down because TJ came out so well,” Johnson said. “The first 15 minutes was a banger. We were then able to get calm, composed and our possession like we like to do. Then we got in behind because we got some nice combinations and then we were able to free up our forward. And all year long, if we are able to get Cris Garfias one-on-one or even one-on-two with defenders right now, he’s just got a hot hand.”
Tahoma struck again in the 50th minute when Robby Guyer found the net.
After a short corner from Wilcox, Guyer ran to the corner of the 18 to attempt to hit a first time shot with his left foot. After swinging and missing, the freshman hit a seeking shot with the outside of his right foot to the far post, finding the goal past a stunned Jefferson goalkeeper.
“He does things in trainings and he does things in games that should not be done,” Johnson said of Guyer. “He’s crafty. He’s craftier than any player I’ve seen in a long time come through here. He really missed that first one really bad, and I think he really wanted to make up for it. He stayed with it, and it was a nice little toe poke. You can’t beat those sometimes.”
With the victory, Tahoma will advance to play SPSL South top seed Puyallup on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
Mount Rainier 1, Curtis 0: Sometimes it just takes a little patience and extra time to find the game’s only goal.
In the 89th minute, Mount Rainier’s Briskans Shibale did just that, sending the Rams through to the state tournament for the second straight year.
With the goal in extra time and kicks from the mark almost a foregone conclusion, Shibale’s winner came as a huge relief for Mount Rainier.
“I was chatting with a couple of guys to see if they were comfortable taking penalty kicks,” Mount Rainier coach Steve Mohn said. “You never know when those goal scoring chances are going to come and thankfully it did come because I’m not a fan of the penalty kicks.”
Although Curtis controlled the majority of the contest and had a 5-2 shots on goal advantage, Shibale found the winner breaking through the Curtis backline for a one-on-one opportunity, pocketing the shot into the back post.
“I thought we had a good first half and a couple of good chances unfortunately we didn’t put away,” Mohn said. “The second half, it was our second game in three days and I knew we were going to struggle a little bit on possession, but I told them if we defended well, we were going to get a good opportunity.
“It didn’t come in the second half, but I told them we were going to get one good chance to win this game, and Briskans definitely stepped up and finished that one. Our player of the game had to be our goalkeeper Alex Weaver. He made some fantastic saves tonight.”
The next contest for the Rams will be against Narrows champion Bellarmine Prep at 1 p.m. Saturday at Mount Tahoma High School.