Soccer fans are known as a passionate and sometimes rowdy bunch compared to their counterparts in other sports.
The Moscow boys’ soccer team got a little taste of that Thursday in their district title-clinching win against Sandpoint.
After the Bears scored their game-tying goal to force overtime at the Moscow School District Community Playfields, the ensuing celebration was so loud it could be heard at Oylear Field almost a mile away.
“One of my other coaches (had) a practice over at Oylear — he said he heard it when Neo (Ting) scored,” Moscow captain Caleb Brooks said. “The football team was here and they were yelling the whole time. That was the craziest atmosphere ... It kind of felt like a dream.”
It was in that raucous setting the Bears toppled the Bulldogs 3-2 in overtime to clinch their second consecutive trip to the Class 4A state tournament. Moscow will play Canyon Ridge of Twin Falls (10-6-1) at 1 p.m. PDT Thursday at Brothers Park in Caldwell.
Brooks said last year’s Bears were content with just making it to State, which resulted in a 1-2 showing. This season, they want to go further.
Assistant coach Alec Miles echoed Brooks’ sentiments.
“Being a part of last year’s team and this year’s team, it’s definitely a different atmosphere this year,” Miles said. “We want to really push the boys further than we have in prior years.
“This is a strong team. Defensively we’re really strong, and if you look we’ve put quite a few goals away (too).”
Moscow (7-4-2) almost didn’t make it to State. The Bears needed a wild win against the Bulldogs.
One hero of the game was goalkeeper Finn Benson. The senior saved a penalty kick in the 61st minute to keep Moscow’s hopes alive.
“He kept his calm and he blocked the ball and we were back in the game,” first-year Moscow coach Pedram Rezamand said. “That was a turning point in the game.”
The Bears also received a pair of goals from players scoring for the first time this season. Right back Ting had the tying goal in the final minute of regulation, and center back Christopher Jacobs slotted the game-winner in the seventh minute of sudden-death overtime.
“It’s great for those two four-year guys,” Miles said. “This is their senior season. It’s great to see them develop over the years and become really quality players for the varsity team.”
Heading into State, Moscow will focus on its strengths of being a solid defensive and possession-oriented team.
Miles said the defense has grown this season as players were shuffled around until everyone found the right fit.
But don’t count out the offense.
Junior midfielder Evan Odberg leads Moscow with eight goals, followed Amin Rezamand (5), Toby Searcy (4) and Brendan Grieshaber (4). Searcy scored Moscow’s first goal against Sandpoint. In total, 10 players have scored for Moscow this season.
“We’re just going to have to stick with our own plan regardless of who we play,” Pedram Rezamand said. “As long as we do that, we have a really good chance for success.”
It was a promise that Grangeville girls’ soccer coach John Cuffe probably wishes he might not have made. But in the end, it’s going to be well worthwhile.
Cuffe promised his Bulldogs if they advanced to the State tournament, he’d dye his hair pink. Guess what happened?
“You know, sometimes you wish for the wrong thing,” Cuffe joked.
Despite getting blown out in its Class 3A District I-II final, the Grangeville girls soccer team advanced to the State tournament by beating Timberlake in Friday’s semifinal 2-1.
The Bulldogs (8-8) will take on Weiser (11-5-2) in a first-round state tourney game at 1 p.m. PDT on Thursday at Vallivue High School.
The winner will advance to a 2 p.m. game Friday against either Sugar-Salem or Kimberly. The loser will play at 11 a.m. against one of those two teams.
It’s a great accomplishment for a team just in its third year of existence.
“Soccer has always kind of been on the backburner,” Cuffe said. “We worked really hard to get the program going. So from there on, to be able to get to State this quickly, it shows that investment is really paying.”
Grangeville entered its district final Saturday against Coeur d’Alene Charter on a roll, winning five of its previous six games. However, Cd’A Charter rolled to an 11-0 victory. Of the Bulldogs’ eight losses this season, three of them were to the Panthers.
During the recent roll, Grangeville posted shutouts against Bonners Ferry (5-0 on Oct. 4), St. Maries (8-0 on Oct. 5) and Kellogg (6-0 on Oct. 11). In the victories in that 5-1 span, the Bulldogs outscored the opposition 26-3. The lone loss was a 7-3 decision Oct. 11 at home against Timberlake. They avenged that on Friday by beating the Tigers 2-1 to advance to the district title game and punch their ticket to Vallivue.
“We were fairly closely matched,” Cuffe said. “They didn’t want to play us because we were very close. They knew we were going to be a tough opponent. That was the most hard-fought game this year. It was whoever wanted it the most. I believe our girls wanted it more.”
Cuffe pointed out his team’s best offensive players this year have been Naomi Connolly (22 goals, nine assists) and Elsa Israelson (five goals, seven assists). Talia Brown has been the goalkeeper, and she’s been seeing an average of 15 shots per game, according to the coaching staff. Brown stopped 22 shots in Saturday’s game.
Donn Walden contributed to this report.
Stephan Wiebe can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at @StephanSports.