NK edges CK in tight NL battle

TACOMA — This isn’t how it was supposed to end.

TACOMA — This isn’t how it was supposed to end.

Central Kitsap boys soccer coach Christopher Floro said he could stomach his team getting beat in a loser-out, winner-to-districts playoff game. What made the 1-0 season-ending loss to North Kitsap so painful, however, was the way it happened.

“We worked too hard to have that (happen),” Floro said following Monday’s 1-0 loss at Mount Tahoma High School. “We had some excellent opportunities in the first half. But I’m proud of them. It’s just a disappointing way to lose.”

After the teams went into the half tied 0-0, with both nearly equally sharing possession time, Central Kitsap came out of the gates strong in the second half, pressuring the Viking defense and keeping the ball in the NK zone.

So when North Kitsap midfielder Sam Mouser found himself face-to-face with CK keeper Grant Rico right in front of the net with about 17 minutes left to play, the result of a momentary defensive lapse, the CK faithful could only watch and hope. But Mouser blasted a shot by Rico on the left side from about 10 yards out, scoring what would be the game-winning goal.

The opportunity arose for the Vikings when a back pass intended for Rico got picked off by Mouser, leaving him all alone in front.

“With the exception of a couple periods in the game, I actually thought we outplayed them,” Floro said. “Everyone on the field worked and gave their all. I’m disappointed in the loss and disappointed in the way we lost. It was within our group to go on in the next round.”

CK had plenty of scoring opportunities thwarted.

After Kane Williams earned a free kick for CK from about 20 yards out, Ryan Hough booted the kick and Williams got a header on it that went wide right about 30 minutes in.

North Kitsap responded just eight minutes later when Mouser had a header in front that Rico made a great save on.

“We settled things down and established tempo,” Floro said. “We had some excellent opportunities. But their defense played well.”

In the second half, CK put the pressure on, taking three shots in the first 10 minutes, the last of which Cougars Adam Cronin hit just off the right goal post.

But the Cougars best scoring opportunity came with just seven minutes remaining, as Kane Williams drilled a header off a corner kick that beat NK goalie Nate May, but not NK defender Craig Gacey, who booted the shot back out of the box to save his keeper.

“Then there was that beautiful corner where Kane got up,” Floro said. “We had a couple close opportunities. Give credit to North, but I thought we played well enough to move on. It’s unfortunate that we’re not.”

The most unfortunate part is seeing a large crew of seniors have to end their careers sooner than anticipated. CK graduates Kevin Barnes, Colin Barry, Colin Flynn, Ivan Gomez, Andrew Kitchen, Jordan May, Jan Pecha, Lee Pendt, Zach Pendt, Mitchell Shoudy and Williams.

“They have contributed a lot,” Floro said. “There’s been a couple of rocky roads. But the seniors were (who) made the difference between us (getting into the playoffs).”

Floro spent the final moments before leaving the field sharing hugs with seniors like Williams and Pendts, who were just a handful of players he said carried CK this season.

Part of CK’s struggles stemmed from missing some of those same seniors. Barnes was ineligible for Monday’s game, while Gomez, Kunish and Kitchen were each out with injuries. It was the first game back for Hough, who had missed the previous two weeks.

“But I thought the team on the field today, they did play their hearts out,” Floro said.