BURLINGTON - Dejected faces surrounded Bellingham coach Matt Zigulis.
It was a sight he's seen far too many times this year.
He offered what words of encouragement he could, his players realizing a playoff spot was now a distant dream following a 2-1 loss to Burlington-Edison on Tuesday, April 29, at Burlington-Edison High School in a Northwest Conference matchup.
The two teams were jockeying for one of the final boys' soccer postseason spots in the 2A classification, with Bellingham (6-4-4, 5-4-1 NWC) trailing the Tigers (8-7-0, 7-4-0 NWC) only slightly entering play Tuesday.
That was no longer the case as both teams made their way off the field, with the Tigers' Alex Woodard netting a goal in the 77th minute to cast potentially the final nail in the Red Raiders' coffin.
"Rough one," Zigulis said. "Burlington did a great job of putting our keeper under pressure. ... They played great."
Bellingham had done everything necessary to salvage a tie after giving up a soft goal in the 20th minute. Burlington-Edison's Jose Barajas, with two Red Raider defenders and keeper Logan Schilder bunched up, broke through the group to capitalize on the miscommunication.
Schilder, who had made several early saves to keep the game scoreless, including a one-handed diving grab minutes earlier, raised his hands in disbelief after Barajas had given Burlington-Edison the lead.
"A couple of soft goals, and that's our season," Zigulis said.
It has been a problem for Bellingham for much of the year, and it played a part in their recent 2-1 loss to Anacortes on Wednesday, April 23.
As the half came to a close, Zigulis took his team away from the field, out beyond the confines of Burlington-Edison's stadium. He wanted to refocus his kids, he said, putting the stinging goal behind them. He got the response he wanted, watching the Red Raiders control the point of attack in the second half.
Eventually that wore down the Tigers' back line, and Keegan Nutt capitalized for one of his more impressive goals.
"I just made a run across the line. It was a great ball. I don't remember who played it to me, but it was a great ball," Nutt said. "I saw the defender coming hard, so I cut it back, put it on my right and saw the far post was open. Luckily it went in."
Bellingham had knotted the game, looking every bit to be the team holding the momentum. With three minutes to go, a free kick by Woodard changed that and the fortune of Bellingham's season.
Woodard beat Schilder low and to the left after taking his free kick from about 15 yards out.
"We did a really good job of equalizing the game," Zigulis said. "They did a better job of finishing it."
Bellingham finishes up its season against Nooksack Valley and Ferndale, offering the Red Raiders little chance to make the playoffs, but a chance to send its five seniors out the right way, Nutt said.
"I'm glad I have a couple years. It just sucks that we owe it to our seniors," Nutt said. "They deserve more. We just have to build from it. We need to win those, and just do it for our seniors. That's our motto."
Reach Alex Bigelow at email@example.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
BURLINGTON-EDISON 2, BELLINGHAM 1
Goal: Jose Barajas (Burlington-Edison); Time: 20; Goal: Keegan Nutt (Bellingham); Time: 62; Goal: Alex Woodard (Burlington-Edison); Time: 77. Shots on goal: Bellingham: 10; Burlington-Edison: 11; Goalies (saves); Bellingham: Logan Schilder (6); Burlington-Edison: Ed Yeates (4).