MONTESANO — Montesano’s run through the second half of the Evergreen 1A League has bred confidence and positive results, including Thursday night’s East County Derby match against Elma.
The Bulldogs converted a 12th-minute penalty kick for the early lead, then added to it with two goals in five minutes early in the second half to blank the league-leading Eagles, 3-0, at Rottle Field.
David Sawyer converted the spot kick, while Nolan Walker and Brandon Lovell scored in the second half for Montesano (5-3, 5-5), which is now tied with Hoquiam (5-3, 7-4) for second in the league standings.
Elma (6-2, 7-3) still holds the league lead by one game, thanks to Rochester’s 2-1 win over Hoquiam, and won the first game over Monte, 3-2, at home.
“Their confidence has been high and they beat the team to beat in the league — convincingly,” Montesano head coach Mike Malpass said. “We just need to keep winning. In some regards, the guys came away with belief after losing 3-2 to Elma. They were expecting to come away from that game in a totally different position. I think that things are starting to go our way and their belief has grown.”
“We played bad soccer,” Elma head coach Carson Seaberg said. “I told the guys at halftime, ‘If they were driving at 100 MPH, we were at 60 MPH.’ You can’t go out and play soccer like that. Montesano wanted to beat us and they gave us a butt kicking — 3-0. That’s bad soccer.”
A tense opening 10 minutes was shattered when a handball foul was called inside the penalty area on a Montesano corner kick. The ensuing penalty kick was taken by Sawyer, who beat Elma goalkeeper Tyler Davis to the right side of the goal, for a 1-0 lead.
With the lead, the Bulldogs settled into a midfield game, while holding off Eagle runs at goal. Elma’s Edgar Hermenegaldo and Steven Persell each had shots inside the penalty area on Montesano goalkeeper Jeff Varness, but no markers to show for them.
After halftime, Elma came out aggressively to find that tying goal early in the second half. However, it was a corner kick off Lovell’s foot in the 46th minute that began the separation on the scoreboard.
The Bulldogs counter-attacked after an Eagle wave and earned a corner kick from the right side of the field. Lovell sent a dangerous kick to the far left post, where Walker was all alone. The defender headed the ball into the upper left corner for the marker and the 2-0 lead.
“Nolan got away from his defender; he can head the ball, you usually see him doing that on defense, so we pushed him up to take advantage of the corner,” Malpass said. “He was in the perfect position. (Brandon’s run) just opened up for him. We have a game with the top-of-the-league (team) and we had three different guys score. We don’t want to rely upon one person when we have 3-4 naturally talented goal scorers.”
Elma produced three chances on goal that Varness had to deal with from Hermenegildo, Jake Bates and Juan Perez following Walker’s goal. Monte took advantage again, this time on a solo counter-attack run by Lovell.
The junior forward cut through the Elma defense and blistered a 20-yard shot off his left foot into the right side netting of the goal past Davis in the 51st minute.
“Hopefully, we can keep scoring and it is always good to get the clean sheet on defense,” Malpass added. “It is great, great for the confidence. It is a great feeling and long may it continue.”
“They beat us; they deserved it,” Seaberg added. “If you take the field like that, you’re going to lose. The speed … if there was a ball to be won, they won it. In the last 15-20 minutes, you’re down 3-0 and start winning 50-50 balls, that’s too late. We have to play better.”
The final 30 minutes of the match was controlled by Montesano’s defense, which withstood several Elma attacks in the end. Varness finished with six saves overall, while Davis came away with four saves in goal.
Malpass cited Donovan Wargo for stepping in on defense.
On Monday, Montesano stays home to greet Tenino, while Elma travels to Rochester.