Everyone knew it was coming.
The Squalicum boys’ soccer team was knocking on the door for 80 minutes but couldn’t find a goal and went into overtime in a loser-out situation, something the top-seed surely wasn’t expecting.
But the Storm needed only one more minute.
Just 55 seconds into the first overtime period, defender BJ James, self-admittedly not a goal scorer, hammered a shot from 35 yards out and like a net-seeking missile, it weaved its way into the goal before anyone could blink.
The goal kept Squalicum’s state hopes alive and gave the Storm a 1-0 win over Cedarcrest on Tuesday, May 12, at Civic Stadium in the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament consolation round.
“At the intermission everyone was telling me to shoot because I had so many opportunities,” James said. “So I just listened to them and I got a great opportunity. They opened up the space and I just shot it.”
It was a long time coming for the Storm, which has developed a bit of a problem in the postseason: the back of the net has been elusive.
After failing to score in a 2-0 loss to Sehome in the opening round, Cedarcrest’s ‘stack the box’ strategy was halting every Squalicum try.
The Storm launched 12 hard shots on goal through regulation, all of which went straight at Cedarcrest’s goalkeeper Aaron Kussman, who made 12 saves on the night.
In the 80th minute, Tyler Hughes got into the box and hit a hard liner, but it was calmly fielded by Kussman.
Still, James said the Storm never thought it might lose.
“We were playing so well. We were dominating the game,” James said. “We were going to get the opportunity finally.”
Quinn Carpenter, Ben Peterson, Hughes; nothing was working. The Storm moved players around, attempting every option it had. Nothing worked.
The Storm even tried from distance several times, Carpenter being the primary trigger man on the long-range tries.
“They were turtling back a lot so that’s just what we had,” James said. “We practice that a fair amount so we were pretty prepared for it.”
To everyone’s surprise it was James that ended up getting the elusive goal. It was his third goal on the year.
“It was never in my psyche,” James said of the team’s struggles to score. “Whenever I get a chance to score, I take it. Any way I can help the team.”
Cedarcrest rarely got the ball past midfield and when the Red Wolves did, it was a long clearance hoping to find the forward.
Only one shot even came close to going in for the Red Wolves, as Chuy Espinoza got a 20-yarder off just minutes from the end of regulation that beat the keeper but slid left of the post.
Squalicum goalkeeper Owen Davis-Bower made three saves on the night, all of which rolled right to him.
The Storm never deviated from the plan: pass the ball, be patient and pick the opportunities when they arise.
Unlike so many times before, though, the Storm offense never came through.
Fortunately, the defense was there to save the day.
Squalicum will face the loser between Shorecrest and Archbishop Murphy in a loser-out, winner-to-state game on Thursday, May 12, at Sedro-Woolley High School.
Squalicum 1, Cedarcrest 0 (OT)