The Lewiston boys’ soccer team made history Saturday with a 3-1 win against Eagle in a Class 5A state tournament play-in game at Walker Field, becoming the first team in program history to qualify for the Idaho state tournament.
“We just wanted it more than they did,” said Lewiston senior Teddy Kessler, who had two goals. “We played to our full ability, and I could honestly say this was the best game we’ve played all year.
“It was a complete mental game. We knew in our heads that we wanted to win more than they did.”
Lewiston (8-8) now will get a third chance against Lake City, as the Bengals will take on the Timberwolves (19-0-1) in the first round of the state tournament at 8 a.m. Thursday at Eagle High School. Lewiston has lost to Lake City in at least their past 23 matches dating to the 2013 season. In a pair of games this season, the Bengals fell 3-0 on Aug. 24 at Lake City and 2-0 on Sept. 14 at Walker Field.
This game was a defensive showdown in the first half, with each team refusing to give to an inch to the other. The two teams were able to get into the other’s offensive third, but the defense from both sides refused to back down.
The first goal came from Kessler. As the Mustangs’ defense keyed in on Kessler, he passed the ball to sophomore Preston Russell, who returned it to Kessler on a give-and-go, and he kicked it in from five feet away.
“Offensively, this was the best game that we’ve played all year,” Lewiston coach Jace Kessler said. “We were able to swing the field effectively and our mid-field was playing really aggressive. We did our homework on this game and I thought we executed the game plan really well.”
Another big part of Lewiston’s defensive success was the play of its goalkeeper Noah Acord, who racked up 12 saves.
“One of Noah’s best abilities is his quick-reaction saves,” Kessler said. “He’s a keeper that we’re extremely lucky to have.”
Acord gave credit to his defense.
“I thought I had a solid game but the defense played extremely well too,” he said. “We got some unlucky fouls towards the end, but we stepped up and played up to their physicality level and we put more goals in the net then they did and that’s what matters.”
This game was physical from the opening whistle. According to Jace Kessler, the Bengals’ Inland Empire League schedule prepared them for these physical matchups.
“We’re used to it,” he said. “Every time we go up to Coeur d’Alene or Post Falls, it’s always a physical game. Thankfully, today, they were able to use that experience and raise to the occasion.”
The second goal was in the middle of a packed scrum, as the ball bounced off the side post of the goal and came back into play. Paul Kessler gathered the rebound and converted.
Toward the end of the game, Eagle (10-8-3) knew it had to find a way to come back, so they started attacking and pressing Lewiston and it worked. The Mustangs got a penalty kick, and Ethan Cutler converted to bring Eagle to within a goal.
“They just need to learn how to close out games a little bit,” Jace Kessler said. “They haven’t been in those high-pressure situations very much this year, but this was a learning experience for them in those last 10 minutes. I thought they held their composure pretty well.”
When the Bengals needed it the most, Teddy Kessler scored late to put the dagger in the Mustangs’ state tournament hopes.
“We’re really excited to go to state,” Jace Kessler said. “They’ve put in a lot of work not necessarily here at just the high school but at all sorts of clubs as well. That’s what makes a good player, they’re only with me for a couple months each year and all the work they’ve put in the offseason really paid off.”
Eagle 0 1—1
Lewiston 1 2—3
Lewiston — Teddy Kessler (Preston Russell).
Lewiston — Paul Kessler.
Eagle — Ethan Cutler, penalty kick.
Lewiston — T. Kessler (Dylan Gomez).
Shots — Lewiston 17, Eagle 12. Saves — Eagle: Cameron Sathre 6. Lewiston: Noah Acord 12.
Pixley may be contacted at email@example.com, (208) 848-2268 or on Twitter @TreebTalks.