BELLINGHAM - Divine intervention, or a touch of blind luck - it makes no difference now. Sehome's boys' soccer team is moving on to the Class 2A Bi-District Tournament.
The Mariners, facing a winner-in, loser-out game against Burlington-Edison in both teams' regular-season finale, came up with the biggest victory of their season Monday, May 5, defeating the Tigers 1-0 at Civic Stadium to earn the No. 3 seed coming out of the Northwest Conference.
"Good lord," Sehome coach John Sylvester said. "That's one of those games where it's all about heart 100 percent. ... It's what these high school guys dream about. This is how these guys can put it out on the field. It's great to see that level of intensity."
Sam Willis' goal in the 11th minute off a cross from Zach Wanne proved just enough as Sehome's backline continued to turn away Burlington-Edison's attack.
Willis, who was playing potentially his final game if the Mariners were to fall, fought off a defender on the cross to place the shot into the left corner of the net.
"Zach just played a perfect ball across," Willis said. "I wasn't sure at first if I was going to get to it or not, but I just tried to go as hard as I could and I was able to beat the player to it and get a touch and just put it in."
Burlington-Edison nearly evened the score seven minutes later when there was a miscommunication between Sehome keeper Max Diehl and his defense as he over pursued a ball played into the box. A Tiger forward lofted a shot over Diehl's head, but it hit the top crossbar and bounced out of play.
The framework, as team captain Sam Diehl said, has a way of being unpredictable.
"The framework is either your best friend or your worst enemy," Sam Diehl said. "Tonight, it was our best friend, for sure."
It was unkind to Gabe Weight, who in the 30th minute played a shot from the top of Burlington-Edison's box only to see it hit the right post and bounce back into play.
Chances were few and far between after that point.
That, at least on Sehome's end, Sylvester said, was due in large part to the play of Sam Diehl in the Mariners' backline.
"Sam Diehl, again, second time this season I have never seen a better game by a center back," Sylvester said. "They still got some chances, but all he did to keep the ball out of the net and all the organization he did was really fantastic."
Burlington-Edison's attacking forwards Blake Dimock and Tanner Gates, Sam Diehl said, pose possibly the greatest offensive challenge in the league with their speed.
Dimock on several occasions broke loose, but time and again Sehome was able to get in front to force contested shots. He did, however, have a good look at Max Diehl in net in the 51st minute from the top of the box, but his low-lining shot went just wide of the left post.
A sigh of relief took over much of the stadium.
"I told the guys in the locker room before, 'I don't want this to be our last game. I love you guys. We can't end tonight,'" Sam Diehl said. "We were like, 'Hey, we got to watch out for their speed and play lockdown defense like we've been doing all year.'"
Sehome secured its eighth shutout of the season, but none have been so important. As it stands now, the Mariners will travel to face Cedarcrest on Saturday, May 10, in their opening-round game.
Reach Alex Bigelow at email@example.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
SEHOME 1, BURLINGTON-EDISON 0
Goal: Sam Willis (Sehome); Assist: Zach Wanne; Time: 11:00. Shots on goal: Sehome: 14; Burlington-Edison: 9; Saves (goalies); Sehome: Max Diehl 5; Burlington-Edison: Ed Yeates 7.