No one would have faulted Bellingham’s boys soccer team for expecting an easy match against Blaine. The Red Raiders were undefeated, while the Borderites had yet to win a conference game, and in years past a nine-nil drubbing was not an uncommon result when the two teams met (it happened in 2009 and 2011).
Although they came away with a 2–1 win, the Red Raiders were surprised when an altogether different team from Blaine met them on Pipeline Field April 10 and dominated play for much of the match.
“We weren’t ready for the effort they put forth in that game,” said Bellingham coach Matt Zigulis. “Historically Blaine hasn’t
been the strongest of sides, but they seem to have turned a corner this year. They taught us a lesson not to underestimate our opponents.”
Blaine’s Nick Butschli scored the first goal 15 minutes into the game. One-touch passing in the midfield sent the ball to Garren Economy, who curled a through-ball to the top of the 18-yard box. Butschli kicked a half volley under the keeper to the far post with a beauty of a goal.
“It was nice to have the lead early in the game,” Butschli said.
Bellingham responded near the end of the first half. Will Mascioli assisted Noe Betancourt-Cruz, who pushed the ball through the Blaine defense and scored a goal that grazed keeper Tristan Hunter’s fingertips.
The game remained tied until well into the second half when a miscue on defense and a well-placed header by Dane Thurston put Bellingham ahead 2–1. Constant offensive pressure, including a shot that hit the crossbar, kept fans on the edge of their seats until the end of the game as the Red Raiders held on for the win.
Blaine coach Gio Quesada said even though the result was a loss for Blaine, the strong effort from all players on the field made it a great game.
“Everyone was in position, everyone was working hard and we played for the win. It’s painful to lose when you’re giving your all, but this was one of the good games,” he said. “I can’t point out one player who put in more effort than anyone else.”
Hunter said he too was impressed by how Blaine played.
“The defense was talking a lot, which I appreciated,” he said.
Communication is a skill the Borderites have been working on all season according to defender/midfielder Matthew Garza. When two defenders go after the ball, for instance, an open man is left behind. Good teams will find the open player and exploit the weakness.
“We’ve had a couple miscommunications that have led to goals,” Garza said. “I think we’re getting better at it. We’re learning from our mistakes.”
Denton Morin said it was a well-fought match that left him wanting more. “I can’t wait to play Bellingham again – they’re a good team,” he said.
Butschli agreed. “They showed why they’re one of the strongest teams in the league. I have a lot of respect for them,” he said.
The Borderites faced Ferndale at home April 15 and came away with a convincing 6–0 win. Colton Economy and Nick Butschli each scored twice. Garren Economy and Konner Van Rijswijck also scored.
Blane’s next game is Thursday, April 17 at Meridian. The game starts at 4:30 p.m.