There’s a different feel to the game when the Bellarmine Prep and Gig Harbor High School soccer teams get together. The games almost always have league title implications, and as a result, are more physical and more intense. Thursday afternoon’s game at Bellarmine’s Memorial Field was no different.
In the first leg of this year’s edition of one of the Narrows 4A’s most compelling rivalries, it was the Lions who came out on top, 3-0. Bellarmine threatened several times in the first half, but never broke through. In the second half, the floodgates opened.
In the 44th minute, junior Bryce Gardner punched in the first goal after teammate Elijah Wolf’s shot deflected off of Gig Harbor keeper Travis Peyton. After getting close several times in the first half, the goal felt like an inevitability.
“It was good to get the pressure on,” Gardner said. “Once we got the first goal, they kind of wilted and we were able to press a lot more.”
Bellarmine added goals from senior Isaac Russell in the 70th minute and junior Max Hilger in the final minute to seal the deal.
But perhaps the biggest strength for the Lions was the stingy defense led by vocal junior Tommy Martin, which bottled up Gig Harbor all afternoon.
“The (back line is) so dominant,” Bellarmine coach Joe Waters said. “They’re so aggressive to the ball. They’ve been like that all season. We haven’t given up a goal from play in any of our games. They’ve all been set pieces. They’ve just been like that all season, right from the start. They’re coming out and doing more of the same.”
Waters said games against the Tides are always physical affairs.
“It’s a huge rivalry,” Waters said. “It’s been us or them for the league championship for the last number of years. It’s always the game you kind of feel like is going to be the decider. Many of the years, it’s come down to the last game of the season between us. It makes for a little bit of extra. A lot of the guys know each other from club teams. It’s always a little bit of extra bragging rights.”
Gig Harbor’s weakness in the final third of the pitch has been an ongoing issue, according to coach Todd Northstrom.
“That’s been our problem all year,” Northstrom said of his team’s lack of attack. “We’re winning on defense, and our defense can’t do it every single game. In order to take the pressure off our defense, we’ve got to actually maybe try to shoot and score some goals.”