Fans fortunate enough to be on hand for Bellingham’s 2-0 non-league boys’ soccer win over Sehome may have seen the start of something big.
Bellingham coach Matt Zigulis said an unusual late goal by freshman Spencer Sumpter, the first of his career for the Red Raiders, was anything but a fluke on Monday, March 16, at Civic Stadium.
The score was fitting, considering this was an intense matchup of traditional powers who missed getting to the Class 2A state tournament last year despite winning records.
“That’s the way he plays. Spencer is two or three steps ahead of the game,” said Zigulis.
The goal showed what a keen soccer acumen the alert freshman has already developed.
“Jack Lewis-Clarke passed it to me (off a rebound) and I just dribbled around the goalie (Devin Trueb was on the ground after challenging the play) and slid the ball in,” said Sumpter, of whom Zigulis expects much over the next four seasons. “I wasn’t expecting it (to score such a significant goal so early in his varsity career).”
Sehome coach John Sylvester credited the Red Raiders with being “a step or two ahead all night.”
“Every time we got in Bellingham’ side of the field, they had two or three men closing down on us,” Sylvester said. “This was our first game and that was very hard to play against. But I give (Bellingham) all the credit for outstanding defense. They simply did not give us that extra step.”
Indeed, Bellingham (1-0-1) has not given up a goal in its first 160 minutes, except for a last-minute penalty kick that produced a 1-1 tie against Everett two days earlier in the Red Raiders’ opener.
The first hint this would be a physical match came in the 13th minute, when Noe Betancourt-Cruz — one of only three Bellingham senior starters — scored on a penalty kick after being dragged down from behind following a skillful, exciting run of more than 35 yards with the ball. Sehome keeper Max Diehl, again splitting time with fellow junior Trueb in goal, made an all-out diving effort but could not prevent the goal.
Bellingham’s new goalkeeper, sophomore Joe Worley, received more than a few bruises of his own while making six saves, including stops in the 64th, 77th and 79th minutes.
“That was being a man,” Zigulis said of Worley’s courage and resiliency. “I really want to acknowledge that kid. He’s something special.”
Bellingham’s starting defensive back line of freshman Christian Ramos in the middle, junior Kellen Smith, senior Nick Bippley and junior Blake Langei was more than up to the challenge of Sehome’s taller attackers.
Sylvester, though, was far from discouraged.
“I saw a ton of good things we can work on,” the veteran coach said. “I also saw a lot of depth.”
Zach Wanne, Sehome’s only senior starter, played his usual spirited game. Junior Isaac DeVange, also a returning regular, displayed a most impressive leg, especially when his accurate 40-yard boot from the right side hit the crossbar and bounced over in the 50th minute. His long shot could just as easily have been a goal.
“Isaac was probably our most solid player tonight,” said Sylvester, whose team visits Marysville-Getchell on Tuesday, March 17, for a non-league game.
Zigulis was more than a little pleased with the communication displayed by the Red Raiders, who have eight returning starters albeit only three seniors.
“We definitely played outstanding defense and our guys really are playing well and communicating well together,” the former Western Washington University standout said. “We do have a lot of potential. And what’s great is that every guy is playing for the guy next to him.”
In its next non-league game, Bellingham intends to test the mettle of defending Class 2A state champion Squalicum on Wednesday, March 18, at Civic Stadium.
BELLINGHAM 2, SEHOME 0
Goal: Noe Betancourt-Cruz, penalty kick: time, 13. Goal: Spencer Sumpter; assist: Jack Lewis-Clarke; time: 66. Shots: Bellingham 9, Sehome 7. Goalkeepers (saves): Sehome: Max Diehl (2), Devin Trueb (2). Bellingham: Jack Worley (6).