Jason Johnson said he doesn’t talk to his team about past seasons.
Except he couldn’t help but do so at halftime of his Tahoma High School boys soccer team’s 4A state quarterfinal match against Mariner on Saturday.
He reminded his players of last year, when they played on this same home field at the same juncture of the season, and when Tahoma’s two-goal advantage against Inglemoor disappeared in the final five minutes of a match the Bears would lose in overtime.
So here the Bears were, back in the 4A state quarterfinals, and again leading 2-0.
“I felt like the last 40 minutes took an hour and a half,” Johnson said.
“And then we got down to 2 minutes and it felt like 20 minutes.”
Only this time the postgame reaction was the opposite. Instead of tears and Johnson trying to console his players, they were shouting and jumping and celebrating what will be the program’s first trip to the state semifinals since 1996 — before any of them were born.
“I won’t lie, that game (last year) ripped my heart out,” Johnson said. “It still even bothers me a little bit. We went from so high and dropped so low. I don’t want to use the word vindication, because I think that’s cliché, but it’s a bit of relief that the guys who graduated — we played for them tonight.”
Mariner controlled possession the first 20 minutes of the match.
But Peyton Trask, just like last week in a first-round victory over Kentridge, broke the scoreless tie. In the 20th minute he collected the rebound from Robby Guyer’s shot and had nothing but an open goal in front of him.
After that it was all Bears. They finished the half with 10 shots on goal to Mariner’s five, including one from junior forward Cris Garfias that hit off the right post, another he headed over the crossbar and three other opportunities on corner kicks.
Garfias scored his team-leading 28th goal of the season in the 29th minute. Charlie Wilcox’s cross was headed away by Mariner’s Roman Voloshchuk, but it went right toward Garfias, who didn’t let the ball land on the turf before he rocketed it with his left foot into the back-right corner of the goal from the 15-yard line.
“It just felt really good when I scored that one,” Garfias said. “Because it was a nice one, too. That was a nice shot.”
And Tahoma’s backline, led by defender and captain Alex Bailey and goalkeeper Collin Gage, put the Bears’ goal on lockdown from there.
The Bears took second behind Kentwood in their division (the 4A SPSL Northeast), then had to win two loser-out 4A West Central District matches to qualify for state, and upset Puyallup for the district’s No. 1 seed.
And now Tahoma is heading to the state semifinals, hoping to win the school’s second state title since doing so in 1992.
Trask said last season’s state quarterfinal loss entered his mind throughout the second half.
“Like ‘We cannot let that this happen again,’ ” Trask said. “Not again. Even before the game. Not many teams get to remake that moment, so we never anticipated to be at the end of the half up 2-0. We knew that was not good enough.”
Only this time it was.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677