Nate Blanchard is embraced by his teammates after heading in a late, decisive goal against Fife on May 12. Jacob Moore | Kitsap Daily News

Nate Blanchard is embraced by his teammates after heading in a late, decisive goal against Fife on May 12. Jacob Moore | Kitsap Daily News

Nate Blanchard leads the Vikings to last-minute district tournament win

The senior midfielder provided the offensive spark with both of his team’s goals against Fife

TACOMA — One minute. That’s how long the Vikings (9-3, 14-4) held a lead against Fife (9-5, 12-7-1) on Saturday. But luckily for North Kitsap, its was the final minute of the game as the Vikings came back from an early deficit, securing a thrilling 2-1 win over the Trojans.

Senior midfielder Nate Blanchard had already netted his team’s first goal late in the first half. With the Vikings pressuring throughout the second, it almost seemed inevitable that they were going to get another one. That wasn’t the question North Kitsap head coach Greg St. Peter was asking himself. Instead, it was a question of who would come through.

And again, Blanchard was the answer.

This time, he used his head instead of his foot to pop the ball passed Fife’s goalkeeper inside the final two minutes to send the Vikings home victorious.

“He scored almost all of his goals with his head,” St. Peter said of Blanchard. “He just has a knack for goal and he comes through. It was clutch.”

But it wasn’t over quite yet. The Tojans mustered one last chance at forcing the game into extra time with a speedy shot toward Vikings goalkeeper Giacomo Battu. A moment of fear gripped North Kitsap fans before Battu put both of his hands up to halt the potential tie. The final whistle blew shortly after.

St. Peter added that the match was bizarre because Fife looked like a different team in the second half.

“The first half, very strong and aggressive,” he said. “And the second half, they laid off quite a bit. The game dialed down. Really strange, we had good possession we just couldn’t keep the ball to create scoring opportunities. That’s the frustrating part. But to keep going, keep believing, keep plugging away — we knew we were going to pop one in.”

That physical, aggressive brand of soccer paid off for Fife in the first half.

Battu was under siege and made several impressive saves, but in the 23rd minute, the Trojans finally finished a chance on a rebound to take a 1-0 lead.

One of the few short bursts of offense from North Kitsap paid off as Blanchard unleashed a forceful kick over Trojans goalkeeper Cole Tantzen in the 27th minute. With an assist from senior George Beddoe near goal, Blanchard placed the ball perfectly into the upper right corner of the net to tie the game just before halftime.

As for the halftime conversation, St. Peter said his squad was focused on trying to change the game by controlling possession more. That combined with Fife playing with less intensity resulted in an exciting win for the Vikings — one they may have bragged about at prom later that evening.

“We were already in state, but for us, it was big because it was the opportunity to host … so, we’re stoked,” he said. “It was such a huge distraction for these guys going to prom tonight. We tried to change the game times, but it wasn’t happening. So, to get a win against a good team is really, really big for us.”

North Kitsap will host a first round state tournament game at North Kitsap High School. That matchup against Archbishop Murphy (12-4-2, 10-2) is scheduled to kick off at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

— Jacob Moore is a reporter for Kitsap Daily News. Contact him at jmoore@soundpublishing.com. Follow him on Twitter @JMooreKDN.

Senior Nate Blanchard lets out a kick in the first half that allowed the ball to reach the back of the net, tying the game at 1-1. Jacob Moore | Kitsap Daily News

Senior Nate Blanchard lets out a kick in the first half that allowed the ball to reach the back of the net, tying the game at 1-1. Jacob Moore | Kitsap Daily News

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