Coming off a state championship last season, the Timberline High boys soccer team set lofty goals this fall — win a regular-season title, a district championship, an academic state trophy and another state title.
The Wolves checked that final box Saturday at Rocky Mountain High, hanging on to top the Grizzlies 2-1 for their fourth title of the season.
“I really hope we’re remembered as that Timberline team that was able to do that and set that benchmark,” Timberline senior defender Eric Bambic said. “Hopefully, other Timberline teams can continue and keep the tradition strong for Timberline.”
Senior Alain Murhula put the Wolves on the board first as they came in waves at Rocky Mountain in the opening 15 minutes. Murhula cut inside in the 12th minute and fired a 25-yard, swerving shot to the far post for his fourth goal of the tournament.
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“He’s just a dangerous player,” Timberline coach TJ Thaemert said. “He scores goals like that in practice all day long, from crazy angles and no space. He’s just an amazing player.”
The Wolves’ third state title in school history didn’t come without controversy.
Leading 1-0, Timberline forward Cole Fuller fell to the turf as his team charged up the field in the 58th minute after re-separating a shoulder he separated in the first half. Play stopped as trainers tended to the Wolves’ leading scorer and helped him off the field.
When the game resumed, Timberline was awarded a free kick 40 yards from Rocky Mountain’s goal. Skyler Munroe lofted a ball to the back post, where Zach Fishburn banged home what proved to be the game-winner.
“It was just a perfect pass to the perfect place at the right time,” Fishburn said.
Rocky Mountain coach Skyler Bell, Idaho’s director of coaching for its Olympic Development Program, said rewarding the team whose player goes down with an injury the ball back and an indirect free kick is a high-school only rule. He said it sets a dangerous precedent, allowing any team to fake injuries to earn free kicks.
He thought Timberline would play the ball back to the Grizzlies’ goalkeeper. But instead, it took advantage of the confusion.
“We need to play the play,” Bell said, “but that rule is ridiculous.”
Rocky Mountain made that goal matter in the 70th minute when Alex Singleton drew a penalty at the edge of the box, and Hamish Lamberton converted the PK.
The Grizzlies continued to pour forward in the final minutes, with Lamberton hitting the left post and Kobe Terashima narrowly missing wide on a cross. But Timberline held on to complete its championship sweep.
“We set them with the idea that we could reach them if we took them step by step, one at a time,” Thaemert said. “They’re lofty goals, but that’s what we wanted to do.”
CENTENNIAL GIRLS WIN IN SUDDEN DEATH
Centennial senior goalkeeper Asha Tullock failed to stop all three previous penalty kicks she faced this season, and she let the first three past her Saturday in the 5A state championship game.
But Tullock stoned San Diego State commit Camryn Wendlandt on a championship-winning kick in the fifth round of penalties, then punched away another shot in sudden-death penalties, lifting Centennial to its second straight state title.
“We told her before the overtime, the pressure is one the shooters,” Centennial coach Steven Snider said. “You save one, you’re a hero. You save two, and we’ll build a statue of you.
“We’re going to have to find some statue funds.”
Lake City (14-1-2), the second unbeaten team Centennial slayed in as many days, jumped out to a 1-0 lead on freshman defender Bridget Rieken’s 21st-minute goal off a corner kick. The Patriots (14-3-3) evened the score in the 49th minute when Alexa Glick poked a loose ball inside the 6-yard box into the net, sending the game to OT, and eventually penalties.
Lake City and Centennial remained tied at 3-3 entering the fifth round when Timberwolves goalkeeper Emily Parson made a diving stop to her right on Glick’s shot. That set the stage for Wendlandt, threatening a goal all night, to bring her team a second state title in four years.
Tullock said she tried to read the striker and where she’d go as she approached. Tullock deked to her left, then dove to her right. The gamble paid off as Wendlandt blasted a shot down the middle, and Tullock flailed her legs for the kick save.
“I knew I had to get the ball out of the goal,” Tullock said. “I had to stop it. I just prayed, and I got it.”
With the first five shooters exhausted and Centennial shooting first, Snider turned to call out his next option. But before he could, defender Alyse Erickson stepped forward.
“I love that,” Snider said. “At this point, it's more important if the girls want to take it and have confidence in hitting it than really who the shooter is”
Erickson went right and lifted it three feet of the ground to beat Parson.
“Everyone was just looking at each other and confused,” the senior captain said. “I knew it was my time, and I was ready.”
Tullock then fisted away Monique Queen’s shot, setting off a dog pile with her teammates as Centennial clinched its second state title in school history and completed a run that saw it win five straight after losing leading scorer Makayla Christensen to an MCL injury in the first round of the district tournament.
“We've had so many injury troubles this year that it almost felt like for a while something is weighing us down, like we're playing with one arm tied behind our back constantly,” Snider said. “Even having these big losses late, these guys keep pulling together, and we keep pulling together and we keep getting stronger.”
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