A defensive standoff between Trout Lake and Northwest Christian turned into an offensive free-for-all in the final eight minutes of last Friday's state 1A/B boys soccer play-in match at Lampson Stadium in Kennewick.
The Crusaders' Ray Kelly broke the scoreless deadlock in the 73rd minute with a shot from 18 yards that came after the Mustangs' defense failed to clear the ball.
Northwest Christian made it 2-0 three minutes later on a penalty kick by Bryce Shellerud, who was one-on-one with Trout Lake sophomore goalkeeper Michael Paxson before being tackled by Mustangs senior sweeper Ben Steward inside the goal box.
Trout Lake eventually fell behind, 3-0, in the 78th minute before senior forward Peter Schmid headed in a free kick by classmate Adam Paxson in the 79th minute.
The eastside regional playoff loss ended the Mustangs' season. Trout Lake finished 14-5, matching the win-loss record of the 2003 team that advanced to the state Final Four and placed fourth.
St. George's (Spokane) took Trout Lake's place in this year's state finals at Curtis High School in University Place.
The Dragons scored with four minutes left in the first half and held on to edge Moses Lake Christian, 1-0, in last Friday's second eastside semifinal.
St. George's then outscored Northwest Christian, 3-0, in a shootout in Saturday's regional title match--the Dragons' first win over the Crusaders in four tries this season--to qualify for the state 1A/B Final Four.
Trout Lake's semifinal match with Northwest Christian was marked by tight, physical defensive play at both ends (the referee issued one yellow card--to a Northwest defender) and an equally spirited fight for control of the midfield.
Throughout the first 72 minutes of action, the two teams took turns jockeying for space and building pressure by working the ball outside-in and inside-out.
Numerous opportunities came and went for each team until Northwest finally broke through with a lofted shot that Paxson couldn't get his gloves on.
The Crusaders' semifinal victory avenged a 4-2 loss to the Mustangs in last year's eastside championship match.