Othello stuns Blackhawks in state tournament
Cheney midfielder Nick Steele grimaces in pain as an Othello player lands on his awkwardly bent lower leg during second half playoff action last Thursday. Steele was unhurt, but the Blackhawks were not, seeing their playoff run and season end on a 1-0 loss to the visiting Huskies.
It wasn't supposed to end this way.
In five of the last six years, season's end for the Cheney boys' soccer team has come after a four hour, 38 minute, 277-mile drive to the west and each time on the final day of state 2A Final Four soccer action in Sumner. Four times the Blackhawks came up short, but last year, they finally won the big prize.
This year, defense of their state title ended on Cheney's home turf in round one of tournament action with a 1-0 loss to the Central Washington Athletic Conference's No. 2 seed Othello Huskies. It was the first home and first-round playoff loss since 2007 when the Prosser Mustangs stole a 1-0 shootout win ending Cheney's 19-0 season.
The game's only goal last Thursday came at one of the most inopportune times - if there is such a thing - right before the half. In the 38th minute, Othello's Hugo Martinez played a crossing pass forward and right of goal to Kristian Herrera, who curved a shot to the right of Cheney goalkeeper Kameron Galm and into the left corner of the net for the score.
The late score kept Cheney from attempting a quick response, and from there, the Huskies defense took over, gaining control of the midfield and limiting the Blackhawks chances in the second half from close inside the 18-yard box. Still, Cheney had opportunities to tie the game, with a couple of senior forward Ian Schimandle's shots missing just wide by inches.
The Blackhawks, who out shot Othello 12-5 with Galm making a pair of saves, also had several chances in the first half. The best came halfway through the period on a corner kick from left of goal played first to Schimandle, who headed a beautiful pass to senior midfielder Micah Weller. Weller's header, from inside the 6-yard box on the right side of goal, went just high - by inches.
Cheney ends its season with a 15-2-2 record; a season that included its third straight Great Northern League title and extending its unbeaten record in league play to 41 consecutive games.
Even five days after the Othello loss, Cheney head coach Mark Kiver was still struggling somewhat to come to terms with what happened.
"They were the better team on this day," Kiver said of the Huskies, who advanced to a quarterfinal home match Saturday with fellow CWAC member Toppenish, falling 3-0 to the Wildcats.
Kiver said the Blackhawks "got after" the Huskies early and played well for the most part, but just seemed a bit out of sync in their game. If a couple early shots on goal had gone in, that might have put pressure on a young, talented Othello team, especially on the road.
"It was a heartbreaking loss for us, but sometimes it happens," Kiver said. Especially for Cheney's nine seniors, six on varsity, who have "been a part of the most successful teams we've had the last couple of years."
Kiver said he is the first to take responsibility for the loss, wondering if maybe there were little things here and there in the game and during warm-ups that might have been done differently. But he's also someone who always thinks something can be done differently, and has gone over the Othello game tape with his assistant coaches looking for areas for improvement.
"I'm already looking at next year," Kiver said.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.