Hot start: Rivals boys soccer undefeated after two shutouts

Leader News Staff
news@ptleader.com
Posted 3/30/22

It didn’t take long for the East Jefferson Rivals boys soccer team to find their form after defeating Charles Wright Academy and Klahowya High for their two opening matchups away from …

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Hot start: Rivals boys soccer undefeated after two shutouts

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It didn’t take long for the East Jefferson Rivals boys soccer team to find their form after defeating Charles Wright Academy and Klahowya High for their two opening matchups away from home.

The Rivals traveled to Tacoma Thursday, March 17 to kick off the regular season against Charles Wright Academy and triumphed over the Tarriers 1-0.

“The opening game is always the toughest,” Rivals Head Coach Robert Cantley said. “Players are still getting familiar with each other, not everyone is totally in shape, and finding every player’s position in a team shape has yet to be completely clear.”

Despite the initial challenge, EJ was off to a good start, working well as a team and remaining comfortably in control during the first half. Fourteen minutes into the matchup, freshman left back Simon Barlow booted a flawless pass to senior midfielder Mark Anderson.

The midfield maestro laced a shot from outside the Tarriers’ penalty box, which took a deflection off a defender and nestled into the net as the goalie was moving in the opposite direction.

The early lead from Anderson eased the Rivals’ season-opening jitters, and the defense held steady for the rest of the first half.

Charles Wright had a few chances to level the score, but the defense, led by junior Sean Botkin, dealt with any threats coming their way. Senior goalkeeper Haven McMillen anchored EJ’s defense and blocked any Tarrier shots on goal.

The second half saw Charles Wright come out strong looking for the equalizer, but the Rivals defense held firm. McMillen pulled off a crucial double save to maintain the lead midway through the half.

The Rivals could’ve extended their lead, but shots from Anderson in the first half and junior Connor Scanlon in the second took an unlucky bounce off the Tarrier keeper’s right-side goalpost.

The Rivals held steady regardless of early-season fatigue and came away with a hard-fought 1-0 win.

The opening-match victory was a first for the boys soccer program in many years, Cantley said.

The win over Charles Wright was a big confidence boost for EJ, as they journeyed out to Silverdale Saturday, March 19 to face perennial powerhouse Klahowya.

A surprising two-loss start for the Eagles had the opponents low on morale, and the Rivals sensed an opportunity to record a rare victory over the team who’d made a habit of demolishing past Redhawk and Cowboy squads in recent years.

EJ shut out the Eagles in a 2-0 statement victory to get the hypothetical monkey off their back.

On a typical spring day for Western Washington that saw rain, sun, wind, and hail, the Rivals set out to make history despite missing three starters.

The first half was a pattern of back-and-forth attacks between the Rivals and Eagles.

The game remained scoreless after imprecise shooting from both sides until senior winger and captain Taj Watson scored on the last play of the half.

But alas, the goal was negated by a handball in the lead-up play, and the squads were locked in a stalemate.

Emboldened by their dominant display and shedding their typical fear of Klahowya’s prowess, the Rivals were on fire in the second half, Cantley said.

Within 30 seconds, sophomore striker Gary Zambor poached the ball from an Eagles defender, sliding a breakaway pass for Watson. Calm and collected, EJ’s captain broke the tie with a one-on-one finish past the keeper.

From there, the second half ebbed and flowed with opportunities at both ends. Despite Klahowya’s seven shots, six were off target. The single save by Rivals keeper McMillen was one for the highlight reel, as he leaped high to his left to get a hand on a rocket destined for the top corner.

EJ was awarded a free kick 25 yards from Klahowya’s goal with five minutes remaining, and Anderson notched his second goal of the season with a perfectly-placed zinger low to the keeper’s left.

The undefeated streak with two shutouts in two games is a first for the Rivals boys soccer program, and likely the first time Chimacum or Port Townsend high schools’ have been off to such a hot start in more than a decade, Cantley said.

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