SHORELINE - Blaine's Cinderella story came to an end, but it wasn't before the Borderites rewrote their programs history.
Never before had Blaine's boys' soccer team made it to a state tournament. Not until this year, that is, although their experience was cut short after King's defeated the Borderites 2-0 in the opening round of the Class 1A State Boys' Soccer Tournament on Tuesday, May 20, at King's High School.
Blaine's soccer program was mired in years of futility. Senior forward Nick Butschli was a part of a team his freshman year that finished 0-15-1, amassing a 6-42-1 overall record his first three seasons. Hope was something hard to come by, but the culture began to change, this year serving as a testament to how far the Borderites have come.
"Together, we did something nobody thought was possible. No one thought Blaine was going to state this year besides us," Butschli said. "We had the faith in ourselves. It was amazing. If I get to play college, or if I just get to play intramurals in college, I don't think I will ever find a team that is as much a family as this one. Every single one of them is my brother."
And he was at the forefront of that change, leading all Whatcom County players with 13 goals this season. But it was a goal he couldn't finish that stung the senior following the loss.
King's held a 1-0 lead for much of the game after a goal by Grant McCutchen in the 12th minute. The Borderites' attack struggled to find any legitimate shots on goal, with the Knights' backline playing like a team that's only allowed three goals over its past six games.
Butschli got a free run along the right side in the 68th minute to get a one-on-one with King's keeper Lars Helleren, who made a diving save to preserve the shutout.
"I was a second away from turning this game around and giving us a fighting chance, and all the momentum dropped. I dropped the ball," Butschli said. "If there's one thing my team can expect from me, it's to finish those, and I didn't."
Blaine's first-year coach Giovanni Quesada didn't see it that way. Not at all.
"I feel his pain. He cried because he felt like he punished this team. I don't feel any player punished this team," said Quesada, who consoled his senior team captain following the final whistle.
Taylor Moe would add another goal in the 78th minute off a nifty cross from Ryan Fransen. Fransen hit a low ball into the box and Moe, sprinting up from midfield, put it past Tristan Hunter for the insurance goal the Knights so-desperately sought.
It also marked the second time in as many weeks that King's was able to survive a physical battle with Blaine. The Knights edged the Borderites 1-0 in districts before the two met again in state.
The tone was set early between the familiar foes, with Garren Economy and the Knights' Jacob Martin receiving yellow cards in the first half.
King's was the early aggressor, getting several strong shots on goal before McCutchen stung one from just outside the box for the opening goal.
"I think the first half in the midfield, they controlled the midfield almost the entire game," Economy said.
Nothing would manifest itself on offense for Blaine, with the Borderites weathering the first half barrage to keep King's close.
Hunter was tested on several occasions in goal in the second half, making save after save to keep Blaine in it, but that last goal all but ended any chance of a comeback.
The belief was there, just not the ability to get past a more-talented Knights squad.
"It's painful for me because you see all the passion they bring every game," Quesada said. "I promise I go home and cry. ... I have tears later. I never expected this. This season is something I won't forget ever in my life."
On a banner inside Blaine High School, the team of 2014 will be the first to say it made it to state.
Reach Alex Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
KING'S 2, BLAINE 0
Goal: Grant McCutchen (King's); Assist: NA; Time: 12:00. Goal: Taylor Moe (King's); Assist: Ryan Fransen; Time: 78:00. Shots on goal: Blaine: 9; King's: 13; Saves (goalies); Blaine: Tristan Hunter 8; King's: Lars Helleren 7.