BELLINGHAM - In many ways, Sehome's boys' soccer team owes Meridian a thank you.
The Trojans handed Burlington-Edison a 2-1 loss last Friday, April 25, keeping the door open for the Mariners to earn one of the final 2A district playoff spots.
But when it came time for Sehome to face that very same Meridian team Thursday, May 1, all goodwill was out the window. The Trojans had the opportunity to end the Mariners' season despite having little else to play for.
Sehome responded in kind, looking like a team fighting for its life, holding off a late Meridian charge to defeat the Trojans 2-1 in a Northwest Conference matchup at Northwest Soccer Park.
"It's a sigh of relief. It's a big sigh of relief," Sehome coach John Sylvester said. "I think we were a little bit nervous in the way we played. Meridian has had some big wins. They are a solid team, and we knew they were going to give us a 100 percent."
Sehome escaped despite surrendering a late goal, setting up a showdown between itself and Burlington-Edison on Monday, May 5, for the final 2A district position.
As the Mariners' captain Sam Diehl made point of, now it's simply on to the next one.
"We're coming in knowing we had to win it," he said. "We got Burlington on Monday, and they lost to (Meridian), but we got to beat them to go to districts."
Through the first 40 minutes, Meridian withstood several Sehome attacks, including two legitimate tries by Zach Wanne. Wanne sent a low-lining shot from the top of the box in the 12th minute only to see it hit the left post and deflect back into play. Just minutes earlier he had an opportunity at a header, but it was just out of reach.
The Trojans had every intention of playing spoiler to the Mariners' playoff dreams, and through the first half it looked like they possibly could.
"They knew they were in a game," Meridian coach Joe Spencer said.
Coming out of the half, Sehome forward Charlie Lahud capitalized following a shot by Gabe Weight to score the game's first goal.
For much of the contest, Sylvester and his assistants had been calling for his players to crash the box following an attempt, with Lahud's goal being a testament to what they were all looking for.
"I've been jumping on (Lahud) to follow like crazy," Sylvester said.
Just six minutes later, Sehome was awarded a penalty kick after a collision in the box sent a Mariner forward to the ground. Diehl, who takes most of the Mariners' set pieces, placed a shot into the lower left-hand corner of the net, giving them the insurance goal they needed.
"At that point in the game, 1-0, they are still in it," Diehl said, "and we're not out of it. I just thought I had to put it in and give us a 2-0 lead, so I took a deep breath and went with it."
Despite owning a commanding lead, Sehome wasn't out of the woods.
Lackadaisical play in the back in the 65th minute allowed Jake Birnel to slip past a few defenders and score on a cross from Joe Wilson. That was the boost Spencer and his team had been looking for the entire game, he said.
"A little bit of hope - little bit of confidence - and they are a completely different team," he said. "We get it in the back of the net and we were putting them under pressure consistently after that, presenting problems the whole time."
Sylvester responded by sending in extra defenders, with Diehl commanding the back line to continue to send the ball into Meridian's half of the field.
"They just kept attacking, kept attacking," Diehl said. "Settled down all the youngins down, said 'Hey, we just got to absorb all the pressure.' ... I got a couple clear-outs with my head, so that was pretty key with us."
A free kick by Meridian in the 80th minute just outside the box was turned away, and Sehome got the win it so desperately needed to keep its season alive.
Reach Alex Bigelow at email@example.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
SEHOME 2, MERIDIAN 1
Goal: Charlie Lahud (Sehome), assist Gabe Weight: time: 42; Goal: Sam Diehl (Sehome), assist Penalty kick: time: 48:00; Goal: Jake Birnel (Meridian), assist Joe Wilson: time: 65:00. Shots: Meridian 7; Sehome 20. Goalies (saves) Meridian: Joe Worley (10); Sehome: Devin Trueb (5).