Community School boys’ coach Richard Whitelaw said it best about Saturday’s exciting Cutthroat shootout win over Bliss in a knockout game of the High Desert Soccer Conference tournament in Twin Falls.
He said, “Very exciting, tense, nerve wracking, topsy-turvy, emotional roller coaster, exhilarating first-round game.”
The winner advanced, and the loser went home for the season. That’s why the back-and-forth contest between No. 4-seeded Community School (9-6-2) and No. 5 Bliss (4-8-1) meant so much and was so dramatic.
It went down to the wire in the second set of penalty kicks at SunWay Soccer Complex.
Senior co-captain Zach Lindahl, senior co-captain Ben Kanellitsas, senior Cameron Jenner and finally freshman Jay Fitzgerald with the decider made their kicks as the Cutthroats won 4-3 on kicks after a 2-2 tie in regulation time and the overtime periods.
And senior goalkeeper Christopher Nalen made two huge saves in the shootout.
Whitelaw’s “Man of the Match” was senior defender Calder Zarkos, making his 50th varsity start. Scoring first-half goals in regulation were freshman forward Fitzgerald and senior Kanellitsas (8 goals).
The Cutthroats out-shot Bliss 10-7 and 4-1 in corner kicks in the first half and seemed in control before Bliss rallied. An aggressive play by senior defender Cole Caulkins to block a Bliss shot resulted in the first goal by Fitzgerald, from Jenner, then Kanellitsas made it 2-0 just before half.
Saturday’s result put the Cutthroats in Monday’s semi-final against top-seeded Gooding, and Gooding (10-1-2) emerged with a convincing 7-1 triumph despite a goal by “Man of the Match” Kanellitsas.
Jenner (a team-high 9 goals) made his 50th varsity start against Gooding and delivered another impressive performance up front, according to Whitelaw.
The coach said, “We were only down 3-1 at half and very much still in it. Gooding was too strong. There is a reason they’re the No. 1 seed. It was a bit of an old-fashioned thumping—obviously no qualms with the result.”
The Cutthroats will try to stay alive today, Wednesday with a 4:30 p.m. loser-out game at No. 3-seeded Buhl (9-3-2). In its two tourney games Buhl beat Filer 5-1 and lost 3-1 at Wendell. The Cutthroats and Buhl split this season, Buhl winning 3-0 on its home field and the Cutthroats winning 4-2 at Browning Field Sept. 12.
Gooding, making its third straight appearance in the HDSC title game, hosts No. 2-seeded Wendell (10-2-2) today, Wednesday for an automatic berth in the State 3A tournament Oct. 18-20 in Twin Falls.
Yet the Senators, despite winning the 2009 state tournament title, have yet to win the HDSC title. Wendell won the HDSC and state championship in 2010. Filer defeated Gooding for last year’s league crown.
This year the HDSC gets only two state berths for state. The winner of today’s Community School-Buhl game will travel Friday, Oct. 12 at 4:30 p.m. to the loser of Wendell-Gooding to determine the league’s second state entry.