The Bellingham-Squalicum boys' soccer rivalry is one that could largely define who wins the regular-season Northwest Conference championship.
The Red Raiders currently sit atop the standings with 13 points (5-0-4 overall, 4-0-1 NWC), one point more than the Storm (6-0-2, 4-0-0), and their matchup Tuesday night, April 15, at Civic Stadium is the final time the two are pegged to meet this year barring any playoff run-ins.
Here's a quick look at both teams:
Key to the game: The Red Raiders are a team searching for offense, but their defense affords them the advantage of being a bit aggressive if need be. Bellingham has scored more than one goal only once in its previous five games - three wins and two ties - but guys like Keegan Nutt and Noe Betancourt-Cruz have shown the ability to score if given the space to do so. Betancourt-Cruz, especially, is one of the fiercest players in the NWC, and he has a relentless motor that can make things happen in a flash.
Key player: Senior defender Lars Botterill helped hold the Storm to one goal in their previous matchup on March 29, and the responsibility of holding the lethal Storm offense to less than two goals will fall on his ability to captain the Red Raiders' back line.
Key to the game: The Storm is a team that physically imposes it will on others. Sehome did its best to hold the Storm players at bay for 70 minutes in their matchup April 8, but two goals in the final 10 minutes show how relentless they can be, especially Christian Chala, who had his hand prints on both. If Squalicum continues to use its size and strength, there's little Bellingham can do to match that.
Key player: Senior forward B.J. Flood is an absolute blur on the field. He's in everything, forcing the tempo of the game and all-around is just simply disruptive. Everybody focuses on fellow forward Christian Chala, who deserves the added attention he receives, but if Flood is left alone, he'll put this one away for another Storm win.