Bulldogs hungry for another run at 4A state title
By ERIC PLUMMER
SANDPOINT — When you don’t have the talent to win a wide open fast-paced game, soccer affords lesser teams the chance to pack it in defensively, look for counter attacks and hope to get a scoreless game to a shootout.
No. 2 seed Moscow employed that strategy against favored No. 1 seed Sandpoint, and it worked for the first 60 minutes as the tension built during the 4A Region 1 girls soccer championship on Wednesday at Pine St. Field.
Then Jordie Breeden and Jezza Hutto connected on a beautiful goal, and the Bulldogs (11-3-1) poured it on from there to blank the Bears 2-0 and punch their ticket to the 4A state tournament.
“Moscow is well organized, and they make it really difficult to score,” described a relieved Bulldog head coach Conor Baranski. “We challenged them at half to not get too discouraged. We asked them to lift each other up, and they did.”
After creating some decent opportunities in the first half, the Bulldogs picked up the intensity in the second half, as Breeden broke free and blasted a shot at the Moscow keeper, which rebounded to Piper Frank, who just missed her shot wide right.
Breeden and Riley Walkington continued to create offense, and in the 60th minute of a scoreless game Breeden lofted a great touch cross from the end line that dropped about five yards in front of the goal, where Hutto skied up and headed in a high quality finish.
“For Jezza to get that goal,” recalled Baranski, “that’s what we talk about being a hero.”
Walkington, who drew a crowd and was busy as usual in the attack, earned a penalty kick after getting kicked in the stomach late in the game by the Moscow keeper while tracking a long ball. She calmly buried her 20th goal of the season for late insurance.
“Riley put her body on the line,” lauded Baranski, who liked his team’s resolve. “They wanted it as much as anyone.”
Hutto continues to emerge as a dangerous offensive threat as she moves up from defender to see more time at forward. Her creativity and skill in the finishing third made a huge impact on the game.
The first goal relieved a wealth of pressure, and what a first goal it was.
“Jordie was going down the (back) line, I got back post at the perfect time and it was a dime,” recalled Hutto of Breeden’s cross. “It felt great. I closed my eyes when I headed it, and when I opened them the ball was in the back of the net.”
Seniors Mya Darling and Yeo Yarnell teamed with Emma Thielbahr to shut down a lot of Moscow counter attacks, controlling the game with smart possession to help the Bulldogs post their seventh shutout of the season.
For Darling, who has been to state the past three years, clearing the tough hurdle that districts presents was a relief. Now she can focus on state, which kicks off next Thursday in Coeur d’Alene.
“It’s nerve racking, but one of the most exciting feelings,” said Darling of the win. “We’ve come together, acting like a family, which makes playing soccer a lot easier.”
Walkington said it was nice to see all the hard work pay off, and like everyone else, she’ll now focus on state, and trying to break through after back to back losses to Bishop Kelly in the state final the past two years.
“The first thing on the mind is a state championship,” said Walkington, one of the top few players in the state. “It’s a feasible goal this year. We’ve worked so hard.”
First half — None. Second half — 1, Spt, Jezza Hutto (Jordie Breeden), 60:00. 2, Spt, Riley Walkington (penalty kick), 78:00.
Shots on goal — Spt 17, Mos 2.
Saves — Spt, Hattie Larson 2, Shea Kilpatrick 0; Mos, Chloe Baker, 9.