Like most teams dealing with an unusual year, the Sun Valley Community School boys soccer team had its fair share of ups and downs, but the Cutthroats still managed to find their way into the Idaho High School Activities 3A state soccer tournament.
The defending two-time state IHSAA 3A state champions lost a lot of players from a year ago, but that won’t stop the Cutthroats from relying on their deep roster, which includes 13 seniors, to get back to the title game.
“Everyone has contributed to an all-around great team performance,” SVCS head coach Richard Whitelaw said.
The Cutthroats (6-3 overall, 6-0 High Desert Conference) marched through the conference playoffs as the No. 2-seeded team.
The road to state began with a 6-0 win over No. 7 Declo, then a 2-1 win over No. 6 Buhl.
Those two wins then pitted the Cutthroats with the top-seeded Gooding Pirates (10-2-1, 4-1-1), which was their first meeting of the season.
The Cutthroats won, 1-0, off an own-goal from the Pirates, thus pushing the Cutthroats back into the state playoffs.
Whitelaw said he wasn’t sure about how his team would fair against the Pirates, especially with all the cancellations due to COVID-19, but the Cutthroats’ play proved there’s a lot more to his team this year.
“We played well against Gooding and dominated them—I thought Gooding was going to be better than they were,” Whitelaw said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, I was worried about our fitness. We peaked at the right time and deservedly won.”
With the surprising but convincing win against Gooding, SVCS will now travel to Post Falls for the opening round of the state playoffs.
A familiar foe in American Falls
The No. 4-seeded Cutthroats are matched up against the No. 5 American Falls Beavers (6-2 overall).
This upcoming matchup has some history between the Cutthroats and Beavers.
The Cutthroats defeated the Beavers in the semifinals of the 2019 state playoffs, a game that Whitelaw claimed to be one of the best he’s ever been involved in.
The Cutthroats and Beavers played in a 2-2 marathon game that saw SVCS eventually win 5-4 in penalty kicks to get into the title game.
The Cutthroats went on to defeat Weiser, 6-0, for the championship.
Whitelaw expects more of the same from American Falls for the opening round of this year’s playoff.
In 2018, the Cutthroats also defeated American Falls in the first round, 2-1.
“They’ll want some revenge,” Whitelaw said.
Coming into Thursday’s game, both teams still have some similarities.
Both teams beat up on Declo and Buhl previously in the season. SVCS defeated Declo twice during the year. The Beavers beat Declo 4-2 on Aug. 29, and beat Buhl 3-0 on Sept. 26.
American Falls has a high-scoring offense as they’ve scored 35 goals this year (4.4 goal average). The Cutthroats are averaging only 2.1 goals per game.
The biggest swing the Cutthroats have going for themselves is traveling away.
The Cutthroats are 5-2 on the road whereas the Beavers are 1-2.
“Every team in the tournament is good, we can’t underestimate anyone,” Whitelaw said. “We’ll just keep playing until there’s no one else to play.”
If SVCS wins Thursday, the Cutthroats will turn their attention to the winner of McCall-Donnelly and Coeur d’Alene Charter.
The McCall-Donnelly Vandals (6-1) and SVCS haven’t played one another in quite some time, according to Whitelaw.
“It would be fun to reignite that rivalry,” he said.
If Coeur d’Alene Charter should win, it will be the first meeting between the Panthers (4-4-2) and Cutthroats.
The opening game against American Falls is set for 2 p.m. Thursday,