After two straight shutout wins from the East Jefferson Rivals boys soccer squad, the hot start was extinguished by the Bellevue Christian Vikings on Tuesday, who defeated the Rivals 3-1 at Port …
After two straight shutout wins from the East Jefferson Rivals boys soccer squad, the hot start was extinguished by the Bellevue Christian Vikings on Tuesday, who defeated the Rivals 3-1 at Port Townsend’s Memorial Field.
“I feel like we’re still sussing out where we’re at in the [Nisqually] League as far as what the competition’s like, so we kind of know what the upper end is,” EJ Head Coach Robert Cantley said after the matchup. “I think Bellevue was undefeated last year in the Nisqually, so it’s good to see where the bar is and we’ve just got to work on fitness — it’s a big thing.”
The match was frustrating for the Rivals in more ways than one, considering multiple controversial decisions by the referees that led to a flurry of 10-plus yellow and red cards between both teams for fouls and trash talk throughout the game.
The match kicked off and both teams traded possession with limited success. After getting fouled outside the penalty box 10 minutes into the first half, Bellevue had a free kick chance from around 20 yards out. The Viking striker slotted a powerful, low shot that curled into the left side of the net to put Bellevue up 1-0.
Looking for an equalizer 15 minutes into the opening half, EJ went full steam ahead on offense. Rivals striker Lochlan Krupa broke into the Viking’s side after exquisite pass-work from Connor Scanlon and Gary Zambor, but Krupa’s shot powered over the crossbar.
Another chance came for EJ midway through the half, with Krupa powering a shot from outside the keeper’s box after a poorly-cleared corner kick from the Vikings, but the strike lofted over the net once again.
After the dangerous chances from EJ, Bellevue started to regain control through coordinated attacks up the left side. One of the Vikings attackers dribbled through the Rivals’ defense and had a breakaway chance. Just as the Viking defender wound up for a shot, freshman defender George Lewis performed an exquisite tackle in EJ’s penalty box to prevent the shot.
Continuing to pressure the Rivals, Bellevue strikers advanced into EJ’s side and found a perfect opportunity to extend the lead after earning a free kick right outside the penalty box. The Vikings player curled a well-placed free kick shot into the Rivals net, just past the outstretched hands of senior Rivals keeper Haven McMillen, to go up 2-0 with six minutes remaining in the 40-minute half.
EJ held Bellevue at bay until the halftime whistle, but the Rivals were frustrated after failing to convert two or three chances to score. Adding to the frustration was a plethora of questionable calls on both ends by the referee crew, which earned the ire of EJ and Bellevue’s coaches and players alike.
Returning to the field with urgency, EJ’s players started to make aggressive pushes into Bellevue’s end from the opening whistle of the second half.
Finally, the Rivals scored in the opening two minutes of the half. After clever passing between the Rivals midfield, Zambor sprinted through for a breakaway run in front of net. Zambor took aim and fired, but the Bellevue keeper kept the ball out with a deflection. The ball spilled toward the keeper’s open, right-hand side and senior captain Taj Watson rocketed the ball into the goal to lessen Bellevue’s lead. The home crowd roared with energy, and EJ sliced the Vikings lead with the score at 2-1 Vikings.
EJ continued to push the Vikings, looking for an equalizer. Much to their dismay, Bellevue extended their lead to 3-1 five minutes later. The Vikings sprinted past the Rivals’ defense and earned a breakaway of their own. McMillen saved the first shot, a powerful grounder toward the middle of the goal. He then made an astounding second save to deflect the follow-up opportunity for the Vikings. After much confusion, the third shot from Bellevue was ruled a goal after the ball had slid into the net before the Rivals’ keeper pushed it out.
The Vikings were up 3-1 with around 30 minutes remaining in the final half. EJ attempted to score again but couldn’t slide past Bellevue’s defense.
Tensions were building on both sides, with trash talk shared between players after most whistles. Near the end of the match, Bellevue’s keeper was sent off after receiving a second yellow card — which equates to a red card — for cursing at one of the EJ strikers.
After the final whistle, players from both teams continued to share words as the referees handed out yellow and red cards like candy on Halloween.
Cantley was disappointed in the post-game trash talk between players, but acknowledged the questionable calls from the referees which plagued the game with numerous stoppages in play, and irritated both teams.
“I think that it doesn’t help that you’re losing the game; emotions run high, but also the referee wasn’t doing either team any favors,” Cantley said. “I don’t want to disparage [the referee] for coming out and allowing us to play, but a lot of the calls were really questionable on both sides.”
The Rivals will hit the practice field with areas to improve upon, including “keeping our mouths closed when it’s required,” Cantley added. “We’ve got to be working on our one-on-one defending and not just jumping in at the ball. A team that’s good on the ball is going to wait for you to run at them and pass their way around you, so we’re going to have to work on some of that,” he said.
The Rivals boys soccer team lost Nisqually League matchups against Cascade Christian School 4-5 on Thursday, March 24 and lost to Bremerton High 7-0 on Saturday, March 26.