Champions know how to stay calm. They also know how to celebrate.
Central Valley did both Friday afternoon, rallying from two goals down to beat Lewis and Clark 4-3 and defend its Greater Spokane League boys soccer title.
Moments later, CV coach Andres Monrroy gave into his players and let out a victory howl that let everyone know:
This one was special.
“I really felt like we earned this,” said Monrroy, whose Bears also claimed the top seed in next week’s district matches after Jared Creighton won the match with a 20-yard screamer 4 minutes into overtime.
The schedule-makers set the table by pitting the GSL preseason favorites against each other on the final day of the regular season. The Bears and Tigers did the rest, entertaining a crowd of 200 fans who shrugged off the intermittent rain and watched one of the best matches of the season.
The deluge came at first from the Tigers, who led 3-1 at halftime. Forward Jackson Moore opened the scoring in the eighth minute by eluding two defenders, dribbling across the top of the penalty box and firing across his body to put the ball in the left corner of the net.
CV (11-2 overall, 8-1 GSL) equalized midway through the half on a long curling shot from Mark McClain, but the Tigers regained the lead on Moore’s tenacity. As the Bears struggled to clear after a throw-in, Moore dove to the ground and poked the ball into goal from 5 yards out.
A penalty kick from Henry Smaldon with two minutes left in the half gave LC (11-2, 7-2) a 3-1 lead and all the momentum – or so it appeared to everyone but the Bears.
“We were down but we knew it wasn’t over,” said senior defender Blake Riley. “We came out pumped up and really intense.”
Indeed, six minutes into the second half, midfielder R.J. Stretch scored an improbable goal. From 25 yards out and with his back to the net, Stretch turned sharply and fired a hard shot that slithered through the defense and into the right corner of the goal.
Two minutes later, Creighton scored on a hard volley from the right side of the box to make it 3-3.
At that point, Monrroy said the Bears – who outshot LC 19-10 – were playing their best soccer of the season, “playing our style.” Monrroy also figured that “it was just a matter of time before we would score.”
As it turned out, that took another 40 minutes. The Bears missed several chances off set pieces, including a remarkable sequence late in regulation that saw the ball carom off the right post and then the crossbar – all in a span of 10 seconds.
But the Bears kept possession in the extra period until the ball found Creighton at almost the same spot where he struck the equalizer.
“I just try to line up those placement shots the way Coach tells us to – this feels so great,” Creighton said.