Fruitland High boys soccer coach Emilio Carbajal had a choice: Throw in the towel on his teams state playoff hopes, or revamp the lineup and hope for the best.
Carbajal chose the latter and everything worked out fine.
As the regular season was winding down, three of Carbajals starters were suspended for between two and three games for playing in an adult soccer league during the high school season a violation of Idaho High School Activities Association rules.
On top of losing those starters, four other players told Carbajal they would be out of town for the first game of the 3A District Three Tournament for a Fruitland band trip.
I didnt have very much of a bench, but they dug deep, Carbajal said. They grew through it. It was neat.
Even with the shuffling of the starting lineup, the Grizzlies were able to capture their first district championship in school history, beating Weiser 2-1 last week.
The victory gave the Grizzlies (10-3) the leagues No. 1 seed at state, which begins Thursday at the Sunway Soccer Complex in Twin Falls. It will be Fruitlands second trip to state in school history.
Expectations have grown for this years Grizzlies, who return eight players from a team that lost in overtime in the consolation championship in 2011.
The tournament was played in Boise last year so they brought a couple bus loads of kids from the school to support us, Carbajal said. The kids were under a lot of pressure to perform. ... They werent clicking. They were trying too hard.
Now that the newness of state has worn off, Carbajal believes his team is better prepared to compete.
Leading Fruitlands charge is senior midfielder Sid Rangel (11 goals) who also is the starting kicker for the football team. If opponents target Rangel, senior midfielder Joel Hernandez and sophomore wing Andres Juarez have also proven effective with eight goals apiece.
And the best news of all?
Carbajals team is back at full strength for state.
MCCALL GIRLS AIM FOR BACK-TO-BACK TITLES
The Vandals (15-1-1) return all but one starter from last years state championship team, but coach Greg Pittenger said his team isnt going into the tournament believing it is the favorite.
This team has played well, and we understand everyone is looking at us like we are last years team, Pittenger said. But we kind of think of it as we are making our own story with the girls that we have and we are looking forward to the challenge, quite frankly.
Opponents will need to slow McCall-Donnellys Lindsey Hall. The senior forward leads the Vandals with 25 goals this season.
Last year we kind of snuck up on everyone, this year I dont think we will be able to, Pittenger said.
Rachel Roberts: 377-6422,Twitter: @IDS_VarsityX