Eagles soar in first state tourney win

Klahowya forward Steven King, right, kept his head in the game against Tenino defender Nathan Dafoe and scored his third goal in two games with a header off a pass from Cody Allen. - Photo by Rogerick Anas
Klahowya forward Steven King, right, kept his head in the game against Tenino defender Nathan Dafoe and scored his third goal in two games with a header off a pass from Cody Allen.
— image credit: Photo by Rogerick Anas

TENINO — There isn’t much history between the Klahoywa and Tenino boys soccer teams. The Eagles and Beavers met only once this past season in a non-League game at Silverdale Stadium with the visitors coming away with a 3-2 win.

Yet that little bit of history provided KSS coach Troy Oelschlager with a plethora of notes and memories to get ready for a rematch Tuesday night on the Beavers’ home field and the Eagles earned their first state tournament win with a 2-0 shutout to advance to the quarterfinals at 1 p.m. today against Lakewood at Civic Stadium in Bellingham.

“We were fortunate to play against them earlier in the year so we knew what to expect and it was easier to prepare because of that,” Oelschlager said of Tenino. “We knew it was going to be physical and a straight-ahead game with them. There’s not a whole lot of possession. They just hit the long ball and let their big guys go after it.”

The key to keeping the senior-laden Beavers away from the net was having sophomore defender Elias Cook play back on the edge of the goalbox where he disrupted every Tenino attack.

“That was our strategy and it worked,” Oelschlager said. “Elias did an outstanding job. He’s our sweeper and his positioning was so important tonight. They have a lot of speed and we took that away by having Elias playing so deep so there was no way they could come in. It cut away every long ball and they had a problem with that.”

That made life easier for KSS keeper Justin Wick who only had to make 11 saves, including a diving grab to keep the game scoreless early in the second half.

“The ball skips off this grass really easy so I had to be on my toes — especially after the ball went past my defenders’ feet,” Wick said. “(My defenders) did a great job, an awesome job. I wouldn’t have as good as saves if it weren’t for those guys.”

After not taking many shots in the first half, the Eagles got their offense working in the second when Thoreau Tiknis broke past his defender and appeared to sink a shot in that was called offsides. Still knotted 0-0, Ryan George looked from 35 yards out and nailed a bullet into the back of the Tenino net in the 56th minute to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.

“I’ve always had a pretty strong left and that’s why they have me there,” said George, a junior midfielder. “I just saw the hole and I went for it.”

“The keeper was a little out of position and he just hit it,” Oelschlager said. “If he takes that shot nine more times he doesn’t hit it — but all it takes is one.”

The Eagles got even more breathing room in the 75th minute when Cody Allen’s pass was headed into the net by forward Steven King for the 2-0 insurance score.

“I love those headers,” said King, who scored his third goal in two games. “Normally the goalie is right there but luckily for me he wasn’t.”

The Eagles, who made their last appearance in the state Class 2A tournament in 1998 (where they lost their only game), have their fans comparing them to the 1999 girls team which won the state title.

“They play with the same kind of heart, but we lack the speed that was on the girls’ team,” said Oelschlager, who also coached the champs. “The same desire and work ethic is definitely there.”

“We have the confidence that we can play at the state level,” Wick said. “We just have to keep our momentum and our confidence up.”

That heart, which has powered the Eagles over the past month, will be tested by the Lakewood Cougars who feature the offensive skills of Bryce Barker. Barker scored all five of the Cougars’ goals when they downed Stevenson in the first round, giving him an outstanding 43 goals so far this season.

“Our plan is to put one guy on Barker and pick on him the whole game,” Oelschlager said. “We don’t want him to get free and have space.”

The Eagles don’t have much information about the North Cascades 2A Conference team, except they battled it out with Sultan for the conference title.

“We haven’t changed much of our practice drills,” the coach said Friday morning. “We’ve continued to work on our touch, not give up the ball and lots of finishing drills. We’re finishing much better (a weakness for the boys for most of the season) and our defense is much better. We’re not the fastest team and we know it. But we’ve been positioning ourselves well to make things happen.”

If things continue to go the Eagles’ way, they’ll advance to the semifinals next Friday in Camas against the winner of the Steilacoom-Sultan game. The Sentinels and Turks play at Civic Stadium immediately following the Klahowya-Lakewood game.

“Winning a state game is a big moral victory for our guys. We’ll give 100 percent,” Oelschlager said. “We’re not going to leave the field wishing we’d played harder. We’re going to play hard for 80 minutes and not give up.”

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