The boys' soccer 1A District playoffs begin today, and since everybody likes predictions, I thought I'd take a few stabs at what may lay ahead. Here are four things I believe will happen:
1. Meridian boys' soccer makes it further than any other Northwest Conference team.
The Trojans are the No. 4 seed entering the playoffs behind No. 1 Mount Baker, No. 2 King's and No. 3. Blaine, but given the way Meridian's played of late, I think they'll go quite far. The Trojans finished just 4-12 overall, and 3-9 in NWC play, but consider this: Meridian suffered six one-goal losses this season, and three of those came against 2A teams that are now in the playoffs. They also beat Burlington-Edison 2-1 and fell to Sehome 2-1 in the final weeks of the season, showing that they are no easy out. I think Jake Birnell and Alan Eyoub will give this team enough to move far in districts.
2. Blaine's Nick Butcshli could push Blaine into tri-districts.
He's that good. The senior has helped Blaine to the No. 3 seed given the young team that surrounds him and the new coaching staff that is still figuring things out. He's been the teams rock up front, scoring at a pretty good pace despite opposing teams knowing he's the go-to guy. I think he could catch fire and propel the Borderites to a potential berth in districts.
3. There will be three NWC teams in the second round of districts.
It would be safe to assume No.1-seed Mount Baker will advance past No. 8 Coupeville, and I think Meridian will take care of South Whidbey and the Blaine-Lynden Christian matchup will yield at least one NWC team into the second round. King's facing No. 7 Nooksack Valley is the only matchup that doesn't favor an NWC team, and the Pioneers have struggled for much of the season scoring goals. I don't see that changing against a good King's squad.
4. Meridian will face King's in the finals, beating the Knights 2-1, and Mount Baker will beat Blaine in a shootout in the third-/fourth-place game.
Taking Meridian is going out on a limb, so to speak, but I think that team is tough enough - and gritty enough - to win districts. It won't be pretty, and certainly won't be easy, but Joe Spencer has a team that is willing to scrap, and I think that'll be worth something this late in the season. In terms of Baker-Blaine, the two teams only faced once this year in a 1-1 tie on April 25, so I'm betting this outcome will be similar, only that Alex Tyska wins it for the Mountaineers in a shootout.
Keep in mind that like all predictions, I could be completely and utterly wrong at some point.
Schedule for the opening round of the Class 1A District playoffs.
Coupeville at Mount Baker (4 p.m.)South Whidbey at Meridian (4 p.m.)Nooksack Valley at King's (4 p.m.)Lynden Christian at Blaine (at Pipeline Field at 4 p.m.).