By Sara Miller
Kitsap News Group
SILVERDALE — In what started out as a defense-oriented game, the Central Kitsap Cougars stepped up on offense to defeat the Gig Harbor Tide 3-0 March 14.
“It feels really good,” Central Kitsap Head Coach Keith Sargent said. “I didn’t think we’d come away 3-0. I expected a much closer battle. But we got the ball in front of the net and were able to finish.”
On a cold night at Silverdale Stadium, Gig Harbor got off to a quick start, pressing the Cougars’ defense. However, Central Kitsap stayed strong as their center backs, Carter Stephens and Kailan King, kept the ball away from Thomas Ingles in net.
A breakaway in the 34th minute led to a close opportunity for the Tide when Gig Harbor’s Tanner Stepp collected a through ball to beat CK’s backline and go one-on-one with the keeper. However, as Ingles came out, Stepp flicked the ball just wide of the net, keeping the score 0-0.
Gig Harbor had several close opportunities in the first half when Central Kitsap gave up numerous corner kicks. Strong saves from Ingles and clears from King kept the score even.
King and Stephens continued to step up when a ball that would have been an easy one-on-one opportunity was played between them. However, King slid and got his foot on the ball just in time to keep it in front of the back line.
Another chance for the Tide came after a long throw in from the Cougars was cleared forward. Marcus Yamamoto got behind the Cougar’s defense, but a quick save by Ingles bounced the ball off the post and kept Gig Harbor off the scoreboard.
Gig Harbor continued to go at the back line as free kicks were sent in to the box being punched away by Ingles and cleared by King. It seemed the Tide was in position to take the lead when Central Kitsap got the opportunity they needed to turn the tables.
Central Kitsap went ahead in the 18th minute when Drew Diefendorf got in behind his opponent to chip the keeper and send the ball into the back of the net. Confusion by the defense on what they thought was offsides was called off by the referee, and the Cougars went ahead 1-0.
They quickly had another chance to double their lead when Chris Hunter beat his opponent to the ball to have a long shot on goal that was scooped up by the keeper.
The half continued back and forth as Gig Harbor looked to equalize and Central Kitsap looked to extend their lead.
A long free kick for the Tide was once again punched away by Ingles, and the Cougar offense produced back-to-back opportunities when Diefendorf beat his defender around the corner to send the ball across only to have it cleared off the line for a corner kick.
On the short kick, the ball was played across for Gavin Cashmore to flick the ball across and find Alex Bradbury, who headed the ball toward goal, forcing the Gig Harbor goalkeeper to make a diving save.
The half ended with the Cougars up 1-0.
The Tide almost started the second half by evening up the score when Stepp stole a pass from the defense and went at Ingles. However, his touch was too strong and Ingles was able to collect the ball and keep his team in the lead.
The Cougars extended their lead to two when in the 31st minute, Logan Fields curled a shot from outside the box that rebounded off the keeper. Jaylen Jones, who had come off the bench a minute before, sent the ball into the back of the net, giving the Cougars a 2-0 lead.
Less than a minute later, Central Kitsap scored again when Taylor Mimaki beat his player around the corner to lay a ball back across the box. Skyler Stephens was there to place the ball in the side-netting and go up 3-0.
Although Central Kitsap controlled the remaining minutes of the game, Gig Harbor came away with several close opportunities as they worked tirelessly to get on the board.
With 25 minutes left, Garret Wenrich beat his player to find Connor Tovey on the backside who shot just wide of the net.
Tovey again had an opportunity in the last play of the game when Gig Harbor had a corner kick that curled right in front of the net and over the outstretched hand of Ingles. Tovey was waiting on the back post to come and head the ball toward goal but again, missed just wide.
The Cougars move to 2-0-0 in conference under first-year coach Sargent. They’ll next face Wilson at 7:15 March 20 in Tacoma.
Sargent said for the next game, he wants to continue working on the defensive shell.
“We pretty much have an idea where people play and putting the pieces together to make things happen.”
Coming into the job, his first priority was developing and putting together a C team to continue building the Central Kitsap program.
“We want to produce a team and build a championship program, and that’s the starting point,” he said.