BELLINGHAM -- If neither Squalicum nor Sehome again fail to make a dent in the Class 2A postseason this year, it will really be a shock, considering how hard they play.
Both coaches John Sylvester of Sehome and Joe McAuliffe of Squalicum agreed that their 2-2 non-league tie was somehow fitting, considering the sheer effort expended before a large, loud crowd on Thursday, March 20, at Civic Stadium.
When asked if the game displayed renewed hunger by both historically talented programs - Squalicum did not win at district last season and Sehome did not qualify - Sylvester confirmed what seemed obvious during a truly bruising battle.
"Totally, absolutely," Sylvester replied. "Squalicum is a truly outstanding (and far more experienced) team with great quickness. In the second half, our guys showed great heart and the willingness to buy into what we're teaching them. I was very proud of them."
McAuliffe agreed that it was a far better than average non-league game as the city rivals began their 16th year of spirited competition since Squalicum opened in the 1998-1999 school year.
"Both teams played well," the longtime Storm coach said. "We had our moments and they had theirs. I told our guys at halftime that we had to use our speed and trickiness to flank them, rather than driving up the middle against their skilled big boys."
Squalicum senior striker Christian Chala scored on a classic power goal from the 20-yard line with four minutes remaining to frustrate the Mariners (2-0-1), who started four seniors compared to eight for the Storm (1-0-1).
"Against all odds, we almost pulled one out," Sylvester said with a grin. "But that was a great goal by Chala."
Chala also assisted on a score by senior midfielder B.J. Flood six minutes into the fray, giving the Storm a 1-0 lead.
"That was probably my best goal ever here, with more to come," Chala said with the confidence borne of having scored eight goals as a junior. "I screamed for Arne Peterson to pass and he gave me a perfect ball."
Both Sehome goals were of the spectacular variety.
The Mariners scored four minutes into the second half when a ball booted by Sam Diehl landed near a crowd of at least five bodies. Charlie Lahud, a sophomore midfielder, fearlessly jammed through the throng for a goal that tied the match 1-1.
Fourteen minutes later, senior Tristan Clem - incorrectly listed as a freshman on the roster - gave Sehome a 2-1 lead with a goal that Sylvester called "all heart, just a great effort."
Clem kicked the ball a split-second before he collided with a defender on the left flank and somehow scored, spoiling an otherwise rugged effort by Storm goalkeeper Trenton Langer and the entire defense.
Sehome's two goalkeepers, sophomores Max Diehl and Devin Trueb, continued their strong start. Diehl made six saves in the first half and Trueb had three saves after intermission.
Both keepers had two athletic saves that Sylvester agreed were well above average, leaving little doubt that the Mariners may have the deepest keeper staff in the Northwest Conference and showing why their coach plays them both.
Sehome might well have been down 3-0 or 4-0 at halftime instead of 1-0 had Diehl not responded so well to being peppered by goals. He made five consecutive saves in the final 22 minutes of the opening half.
Trueb blocked power shots by Squalicum's Gabe Bacco-Guidroz and Flood in the opening moments of the second half, then added a diving save.
Squalicum's back line of Hans Kogan, Avery Wolfe and B.J. James limited Sehome to only three shots other than the Mariners' pair of spectacular goals. Sehome defenders Sam Diehl, Isaac DeVange, Kiefer Thomas and Noah Byford limited the Storm to four second-half shots.
Flood's goal was his first for Squalicum's varsity. He had to play junior varsity last season after transferring from Bellingham.
Sehome will take on Bellingham at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 22, at Civic Stadium in the young Mariners' fourth game of the season's opening week. Squalicum will play at Ferndale at 4 p.m. the same day.
SQUALICUM 2, SEHOME 2
Goals: B.J. Flood (Sq)'; assist: Christian Chala; time: 6; Charlie Lahud (Se); time: 44; Tristan Clem (Se); time: 58; Chala (Sq); assist: Arne Peterson; time: 76. Shots on goal: Squalicum 10, Sehome 5. Goalkeepers (saves): Sehome: Max Diehl (6), Devin Trueb (3); Squalicum: Trenton Langer (2).
Spelling on Kiefer Thomas' name corrected on March 21.