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Klahowya comes within a minute of kicking Steilacoom
"It was, by all accounts, the Klahowya Secondary School boys soccer team's best game of the season.It stopped a minute and change short, however, of being the Eagles' greatest victory.Brian Ford's goal in the ninth minute of overtime broke a scoreless tie and sent the Steilacoom Sentinels to a 1-0 victory over Klahowya in a first-round Class 2A district playoff game Thursday night at chilly Silverdale Stadium.As defeats go, it was hard to take. The Eagles, in their third year of existence, neutralized a powerful Steilacoom side - much the same one which punished Klahowya 5-0 under similar postseason circumstances a year earlier - until Ford ran onto Mike Smith's through ball and snapped a shot inside the left goalpost to snatch the victory for the visitors.But as moral victories go, this one was a doozie. Klahowya was much more formidable than the team Steilacoom beat up on a year ago at North Mason High School. For that matter, the Eagles were a different team than the one that struggled to find itself through much of the just-completed Olympic League season.I think they got down on themselves a lot, playing against the bigger schools in the league, said Klahowya coach Troy Oelschlager of his program, which annually takes its lumps against the Olympic League's Class 4A and 3A members. They get in their games and they think they're overmatched. It isn't until they get against another 2A team that they think they can win.The Eagles - their less-than-stirring history against Steilacoom notwithstanding - certainly looked like they thought they could win Thursday's game, right up until Ford stuck the dagger in their hearts.I'll tell you what: If we keep playing like this, we'll be going for a couple more weeks, Oelschlager said, referring to the upcoming state 2A tournament.The Eagles didn't have long to wait to prove Thursday's strong showing was no fluke - and make a prophet of their coach. They had to return to Silverdale Stadium Friday night to take on Eatonville in a loser-out state qualifier.The Cruisers survived a tiebreaker in Thursday's early game to earn the do-or-die matchup with Klahowya.The late game, too, looked like it would go the way of the tiebreaker. Even though the Sentinels outshot Klahowya 19-10 and piled up 10 corner kicks to none for the hosts, it was anybody's contest. The Eagles' defense dogged Steilacoom's best attackers, senior Ford and junior Nathan Chapman, to distraction, and junior goalkeeper Brandon Hintz was equal to any challenge that fought its way through. Hintz made five saves, a couple bordering on brilliant.At the other end, Klahowya nearly snuck in the winning goal with about four minutes remaining when Brett Krache skidded a wrong-footed shot across the goal mouth and just wide of the far post. Almost immediately, Hintz had to stop Mathew Molten's shot after a scramble in front of the Eagles' goal to force the extra 10 minutes.Klahowya couldn't mount much offense in the overtime sessions and was outshot 4-0. Ford's goal was the final shot of the contest.I don't know; we just came to play tonight, Oelschlager said of the Eagles, who often played passively against their larger leaguemates. We're much more confident against schools our own size.I was really pleased. I mean, Steilacoom's one of the best teams in the state, and we basically played them to a zero-zero tie."