Trojans keep Cougars winless in league

College basketball has no monopoly on March madness.

On Thursday, March 21, there was Steve Haggerty, the veteran Olympic High coach, running along the sidelines to celebrate a goal, slapping hands with his reserves and a cadre of statisticians who were huddled on the bench on a cold night at Silverdale Stadium.

The next minute he shouting, “Joel! Joel! Joel!” at volatile, talented senior Joel Nelson whenever it looked like the young Trojan was about to blow a gasket.

Afterward, the Trojans had a lot to shout about after picking up a 4-1 Narrows League Bridge Division victory over the rival Central Kitsap Cougars.

The madness on the other side of the field was mostly directed at the officiating.

“The referees overall gave us a tough game. I guess that’s how I would describe that one,” said Rob Cole, the first-year coach of the Cougars who tried to be as diplomatic as possible after the match.

Central took exception to a couple of early penalty kicks that the Trojans capitalized on to take a 2-0 lead.

Olympic’s Paul Struwe booted in the first one in the 13th minute and Brian Meherg followed with another blast that just got under the top of the net in the 21st minute.

It was the first penalty that shook the Cougars, a young team that now finds itself 0-2-1 in league and 1-3-1 overall, this after losing just one league game last year while winning the Olympic League championship and reaching the quarterfinals of the state 4A tournament.

“I’ve played a lot of soccer and never seen anything like that,” said CK senior Nick Van Buecken, who also chose his words carefully.

The first penalty kick is the one the Cougars objected to.

“It was a legal header out of the box,” said Van Buecken. “That’s the way I saw it. And they called tripping or something.”

It was during a span when play turned physical and every call seemed to go against Central Kitsap.

“Little things like that pulls a young team apart,” Van Buecken said.

Van Buecken said there’s plenty of time to turn things around.

“We know how to play soccer,” he said. “Right now we just need to work on getting things straightened out.”

Nelson scored two second half goals for the Trojans, his fourth and fifth of the season.

“I think in the last couple of minutes we might have lost a little bit of poise,” Haggerty said. “But I think we got a little bit back tonight, especially Joel and Andrew Nelson, Joel’s twin brother. Both of those kids did a nice job tonight.”

Nelson’s goals sandwiched Central’s only score, which came in the 60th minute. During a scramble in front of the Olympic net, the ball was kicked by CK’s Andrew Boyer’s heel and bounced off a Trojan player and into the goal, making the score 3-1.

What little momentum the Cougars gained was quickly erased by Joel Nelson’s final goal after taking a slick pass from Andrew Nelson. John Hoogestraat set up Nelson’s first goal.

“We came out pumped up,” Joel Nelson said. “After losing to South Kitsap (3-2 on Tuesday, March 19), we knew we had to win this one.”

Olympic (2-1 league, 4-1 overall) impressed Cole, whose team was shut out by Gig Harbor 2-0 two nights earlier.

“It’s hard to compare because it’s a different game on turf,” Cole said. “Gig Harbor has a couple guys who are awfully tough, but I think Olympic has a better quality nine guys.”

“I think we can beat anyone in the league when we’re clicking,” Joel Nelson said. “(Especially) when we’re moving well, talking, playing real good defense like we did tonight.”

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