Before Friday night’s semifinal game, Puyallup High school head soccer coach Matt White told his team to match the aggressive play that he expected from Jackson High.
The Vikings listened. And now they are going to play for the 4A state championship on Saturday after defeating Jackson, 4-0, at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup. Puyallup (19-2) faces Mt. Si at 5 p.m. at Sparks Stadium.
A aggressive defense an persistent attack led to two goals in the first half; the first by Spencer Williams and the next by Dane Helle. Helle also scored in the second half as did Craig Johnson.
“We just wanted to put a lot of pressure on them,” Helle said. “Just get another goal. (Coach) told us they were going to be aggressive so we just had to match what they did and I think we accomplished that.”
After a few minutes of balance play, the Vikings began to take control with lengthy possessions with the ball and teasing scoring opportunities. A goal was nullified by an offsides call but Puyallup would get on the scoreboard a few minutes later.
Jackson (18-2-1) attempted to clear the ball out of their own zone, but the ball landed at the feet of Williams, who fired a shot into the back of the net to make it 1-0. The score seemed to inspire the defense, which cranked up the pressure high on the field.
“We’re an organized team, we defend from the front and you could see that we exposed some of the things they did because of our defending from the front,” White said.
It paid off in the 25th minute with Hell’s first goal. Timberwolves junior goalkeeper Justin Huttinger crept out too far out of the goal and Helle launched a shot over his head to make it 2-0.
The second half was more of the same: Aggressive Vikings defense and timely tackles leading to Helle’s second score. On a Vikings counter attack, Helle was draped by Timberwolves defenders but he managed to squeeze off a shot that eluded Huttinger to make it 3-0. Johnson scored later on a powerful shot at close range for Puyallup’s final score.
The Vikings also got timely goalkeeping from senior Brandon Limes. He made four saves including a diving stop just before the end of the first half and a kick save in the 72-minute mark to preserve the shutout. It was the second shutout for Limes this postseason.
In three tournament games, the Vikings are plus-11 in goal differential, surrendering just one goal. That stat pleased Limes.
“I come on the field every day looking to keep a zero on that scoreboard,” Limes said. “I couldn’t do it without the four or five guys in front of me helping me preserve the shutout. It’s a point of pride for us to not get scored on a Sparks Stadium.”
The Vikings have a chance to win the first state title in school history and will be the second appearance for the school, the last of those coming in 2008 where they lost in 4-3 penalty kicks to Bellarmine Prep.
While this is the final game together for this team, the players said they want to enjoy the experience of playing for the state title while appreciating what they already have accomplished together.
“I love these guys,” Helle said “We’ve been through so much together and to do it here at home, something that we’ve never done in school history. Tomorrow will be special but I just love these guys and I’m glad they’re on my team.”