Saved by sophomore midfielder Evan Darling’s equalizer in the 72nd minute, the Sandpoint boys soccer team kicked off Tanner French’s head coaching career with a 1-1 draw against Lewiston on Saturday.
The goal was the result of a late offensive surge from the Bulldogs, who trailed for nearly 50 minutes before Darling scored his first varsity goal.
“I saw a little bit of heart,” French said of the underclassmen-heavy team’s attack. “It’s tough to have that mentality for 80 minutes. But they’re young, they’re inexperienced, and the only way they’re going to get experience and that mentality is to understand that it has to come from them.
Pressure on the outside from Randy Lane, Zander Moore and Sims MacDonald put Sandpoint on the attack late in the second half. On Darling’s scoring play, Lewiston freshman goalkeeper Kyson Barden tapped out a ball straight at Darling, who gathered himself, got the ball down and scored from just inside the box.
“Football is a funny sport because the same thing rarely happens twice,” French said. “Whether it bounces right at your foot or it doesn’t, you have to be ready for it. Whether or not Evan anticipated that one or the ball came right to his foot, he put it in the back of the net and that’s the most important aspect of that. I’m happy for him as well — as a sophomore stepping into a starting role, that’s huge.”
The Bulldogs controlled possession for the first 20 minutes, earning early chances off of Lewiston fouls. Although Sandpoint couldn’t capitalize, they kept Bengals forwards Sam Miller and Tai Lawyer in check until the floodgates burst in the 20th minute. Thus began freshman goalkeeper Roman Jiles’ first major test.
The defense and Jiles held off Lawyer and Miller’s shots for a while before Jiles made a series of saves that French later called “fantastic.” But Lewiston eventually scored off of a corner kick in the 24th minute.
“I called [Roman] last night and said ‘Hey, you’re going to play the entire game. Things are going to go wrong, but how are you going to adapt?’” French said. “I’m happy for him. He had four fantastic saves right before that goal. Obviously, it’d be nice to get a shutout your first go-round, but he’s a 14-year-old kid playing with 18-year-olds. It’s huge for him, it’s huge for the team and it’s a big confidence boost.”
The Bulldogs hit a lull after the Bengals’ goal, but kept earning opportunities for themselves — all thanks to Moore creating some looks for Lane and MacDonald. When all was said and done, Sandpoint out-shot the Bengals 12-9.
After Darling’s goal, the Bulldogs defense held late, as Miller’s shots went wide left and Jiles smothered a shot inside the box for his sixth save of the game. MacDonald had a pair of headers inside the box late but they missed the mark.
Sandpoint (0-0-1) will host Coeur d’Alene on Tuesday, Aug. 27 at 4:30 p.m.
First half — 1, Lewiston, unknown, (assisted by Kale Witt), 24:00. Second half — 1, Sandpoint, Evan Darling (unassisted), 72:00.
Shots on goal — Sandpoint 12, Lewiston 9.
Saves — Sandpoint, Roman Jiles 6; Lewiston, Kyson Barden, 5.