It was fitting that reliable reserve Ethan Hunger followed the consistently welcome advice of a fellow senior who seldom gets the chance to score because he is a defensive standout.
“Kiefer (Thomas) is always telling me that when I go in, just to shoot,” Hunger said with a smile while celebrating with Thomas after unbeaten Sehome clinched the first state boys’ soccer berth for the Mariners’ many seniors.
Hunger scored with 17 minutes remaining – a score made possible by a fine run by senior Jack Willis – and the goal stood up as Sehome (15-0-3) earned a 2-1 win over Cedarcrest (13-3-2) in the semifinals of the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament on Tuesday, May 10, at Civic Stadium.
The Mariners, who start nine seniors, will play for a district title Saturday, May 14, at 8 p.m. at Shoreline Stadium against Archbishop Murphy, a 1-0 winner over Anacortes in the other semifinal. Cedarcrest will play Shorecrest on Thursday in a loser-out game.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
Oh, and let’s not forget the man with the good advice. Thomas headed in a goal – the second of the season for the star defender – six minutes before Hunger’s fifth and most important score of the season.
“I’m one of the two defenders who moves up for corner kicks,” said Thomas, referring to how he was in position to score off a beautiful ball by Charlie Lahud. “And that was an excellent corner kick.”
When asked if his winning score was a dream for the seniors, Hunger called it a “dream for the whole team.” Indeed, Sehome has not been to state since 2012.
“I was just happy I capitalized on my chance,” Hunger said. “Jack had a good run through the middle and it cleared space. The ball popped up and I finished it off.”
Sehome coach John Sylvester couldn’t have been prouder.
“I can’t remember a Sehome team playing a better game, considering the circumstances,” said Sylvester, in his eighth season. “We had to use every trick in the book to fend off Cedarcrest. They are an exceptionally athletic team.”
Sylvester used several starters at multiple positions and sent most of his roster into the fray at one point or another.
“We had to have fresh legs. There was no other way (to win),” he said. “And their goalkeeper was unreal.”
Cedarcrest freshman keeper Connor McCabe made eight saves, several of them spectacular, to fend off the Mariners until midway through the second half.
The Red Wolves took a 1-0 lead when Chase Bolin scored on an angle shot with 25 minutes remaining. But that only seemed to fire up the Mariners and Sehome goalie Devin Trueb, in his biggest game as a senior, was in full charge most of the way, making five saves and communicating well.
McCabe fended off hard shots by Sehome’s Kevin Sun, Rylan Hinkle and Noah Byford not long before Thomas and Hunger scored.
As usual, Sehome defenders and midfielders – including Isaac DeVange, Gabe Weight, Danny Fazio, Manny Pacheco-Rodriguez and Charlie Greenan – did a generally stellar job, allowing only the second goal in a seven-game span.
That was especially important because star midfielder Mason Rathkamp had to sit out with a knee injury sustained in Sehome’s 1-0 win over Bellingham in a district opener.
Freshmen Seamus Trueb and Ben Holroyd saw significant minutes in relief. In fact, Holroyd appeared to have scored on a rebound after Thomas’ header, but the officials ruled Thomas’ attempt was good.
Just like his advice, in fact.