BELLINGHAM - Sehome sophomores Max Diehl and Devin Trueb were perfectly satisfied to play 40 minutes apiece in goal, as usual.
Bellingham goalkeeper Logan Schilder, meanwhile, was grateful to be playing at all, much less the full 80 minutes in the Red Raiders' 0-0 soccer tie with the Mariners in a non-league match with precious few thrills until the final 10 minutes on Saturday, March 22, at Civic Stadium.
The affable Schilder - the tallest high school athlete in Whatcom County at what the mobile, talented junior readily confirmed is a full 6 feet, 10 inches - saw his first sports action since breaking his right tibia in his second game of the basketball season.
When asked why he sat out Bellingham's first two soccer games, he replied, "they were pre-season games." When queried why he was playing in his first pre-season game Saturday, he responded, "It's Sehome."
This game, however, was downright stultifying - either that, or a display of determined defense, which was also at least partly true - compared with the lively battles these legendary rivals usually play.
Neither the Mariners (2-0-2 overall) nor the Red Raiders (1-0-2) got off so much as a single shot on goal in the first 30 minutes of the second half.
But in the last 10 minutes, each team hustled to manage three desperate, pulse-pounding shots. Two Bellingham assaults resulted in fine saves by Trueb; one Sehome shot became a game-saving deflection by Schilder.
Trueb, in fact, was right where he wanted to be - in the thick of late second-half action.
"I like playing the second half better," said Trueb. "It's stressful, but I really like it better than the first half."
Diehl expressed the opposite feeling.
"I like playing the first half," said Diehl, who made two saves. "Right now, I don't like the pressure of the second half (as much as Trueb does). But eventually, coach (John Sylvester) will choose one of us to be the full-time goalie."
Trueb said that's fine with both of the two buddies, who help prepare each other.
"Whoever coach chooses is fine," Trueb said.
"I feel the same way," Diehl said. "We're good friends. We'd both like to play goalie, but we understand. We'll be supporting each other through our senior year."
Sylvester is thrilled to have such a stirring example of team spirit.
"Max and Devin are both pushing and supporting each other," Sylvester said. "They provide a very big focus for 40 minutes each. I'm very pleased with both of them."
Both goalies agreed that Sehome's defensive support has been as good as they could have expected, having allowed only two goals (both by Northwest Conference title contender Squalicum) in 320 minutes. The young Mariners' offense, however, has produced only five goals.
It was the second scoreless tie for Bellingham, which scored five goals against Ferndale in its previous game.
"I felt good physically but a little shaky," said Schilder, who had four routine saves in the first half and finished with five. "I'm glad our defense is helping me so much."
Both Sylvester and Bellingham coach Matt Zigulis said the scoreless tie was somehow fitting.
"We didn't deserve to lose, but we didn't deserve to win," Sylvester said. "This was not our best effort. It was a boring game. Still, we got a solid defensive effort out of it. We also got an encouraging effort by our only freshman, Mason Rathkamp. He played very well when he came in to play an attacking style at center-mid. Bellingham went at us in the second half with trickiness and good pressure."
It was the fourth game in six days for Sehome, which will play its NWC opener Monday, March 24, against Lynden Christian at Bender Fields. In other words, after playing the first five games of the 16-game regular-season schedule in eight days, the Mariners will play the final 11 matches over 42 days through May 5.
"Well, the (unusual) schedule is getting us fitter," Sylvester said. "The Squally game (two days earlier) took a lot out of us."
Zigulis agreed that both teams were more than a tad weary.
"It has been a long week for both of us," said Zigulis, whose team played its third game in five days and will open the league season Monday at Mount Baker. "The 0-0 score was justified. We were testing the waters, like two strong boxers. It was sure good to see Logan Schilder out there for 80 minutes."
Schilder's deflection came in the 71st minute on a hard shot by Sehome sophomore Charlie Lahud from the right flank. Jesse Haggen was barely wide left on a shot in the 77th minute and Tristan Clem's power shot hit the left post in the 78th minute for Sehome.
For Bellingham, hard-driving sophomore reserve Jack Lewis-Clark wasn't far wide left in the 73rd minute. Trueb then made a pair of strong saves in the final four minutes, including on a 50-yard free kick by Bellingham junior defender Nick Bippley in the last minute.
Sehome's rugged starting backline of captain Sam Diehl and sophomores Isaac DeVange, Kiefer Thomas and Noah Byford gave Sylvester yet another positive. For Bellingham, senior co-captain Lars Botterill, senior Noah Silverman, sophomore Kellen Smith and Bippley were all goalkeeper Schilder could have asked in the way of rugged support, along with co-captain Hunter Hadfield at midfield.
BELLINGHAM 0, SEHOME 0
Shots on goal: Bellingham 8, Sehome 7. Goalkeepers (saves): Bellingham: Logan Schilder (8); Sehome: Max Diehl (2), Devin Trueb (2).