ELMA — Elma had one more match to take care of before all of its focus will fall on La Center in Saturday’s district play-in match on Thursday.
Montesano had one more match to take care of before the off-season, giving all of its focus to earning a series win over its biggest rival.
Playing with an extra step in their shoes, the Bulldogs took control of this Evergreen 1A boys soccer finalé at Davis Field and walked off with a 2-0 victory.
On Saturday, Elma (7-8, 7-8) will head down to La Center for a District IV 1A play-in game at noon.
Montesano has its season come to an end at 4-11 in league, 4-12 overall, but earned a distinction the Eagles gained last year when the Bulldogs were postseason-bound — a 2-1 season series win.
“We wanted to come in and take two out of three from Elma,” Montesano assistant coach Gary Mawhorter said. “This was our postseason game tonight and now we have bragging rights. Our control was phenomenal tonight. The boys stayed calm. They’ve improved every step of the way this season.”
“(Montesano’s) energy was better than ours throughout,” Elma head coach Carson Seaberg said. “They stepped to the balls harder, won the 50-50 balls more often and that’s effort. Little by little, that breaks you down. They outworked us today. Now our 100 percent focus is on Saturday, which is where it has to be.”
Both teams came out with offense on their minds, turning the opening 20 minutes of the match into a back-and-forth, chance-to-chance showcase.
The breakthrough came in the 22nd minute when two Elma defenders and two Montesano forwards converged and fell down going after the ball inside the Eagle penalty area. In the scrum, freshman midfielder Brandon Lovell came away with the ball, taking one touch away from the pile and snap-shooting the ball past goalkeeper Edgar Hermenegildo for a 1-0 lead.
Elma came away with two good chances to tie up the match, including an indirect free kick 12 yards from goal in the 33rd minute. But as Seaberg noted, none of the chances were dangerous enough to be converted.
Following halftime, in which Elma’s five seniors (Kevin Martinez, Zach Davis, Zach Vargo, Trent Escoffon and Kyle Emerson) were honored in Senior Night festivities, both teams kept up the back-and-forth play.
Montesano’s Eduardo Lopez came out of goal and into the midfield, with goalkeeper Brett Cooper going in, after the break. Lopez provided a change-of-pace for the Bulldogs and directly set up the second and final goal of the night.
After a run deep into Elma’s defense, Lopez brought the ball back and had it poked away from him. The loose ball sat in an open area, where sophomore midfielder David Sawyer teed off on a low-driving 27-yard shot that found the lower right corner past goalkeeper Tyler Davis in the 57th minute.
“Eduardo had a fantastic first half and he set the tone for us in goal,” Mawhorter said. “We have two outstanding goalkeepers and it is always tough to find the right combination. He was anxious as a senior to come up front and make an impact tonight.”
For the remainder of the match, Montesano slowed down the pace with its possession game, while Elma sent waves of attacks in the hopes of a goal. In the end, the shutout was preserved.
In the junior varsity match, Elma came back from a two-goal deficit in the final 12 minutes to forge a 4-4 tie.