POULSBO — After 73 minutes of scoreless action, North Kitsap finally had a breakthrough.
Junior midfielder Wyatt Murphy dished off a pass to freshman Samuel Van Loon Rojas, who beat his defender with his great speed down the left side of the field. Van Loon Rojas then sent a cross that dropped right back into Murphy’s path and he shot a laser into the lower corner of the net.
That goal held up as the Vikings knocked off their Olympic League rival Kingston, 1-0, on Tuesday evening. It was the fourth consective year in which the first league match between these two teams ended by that score.
If you left the match at halftime, that’s likely not the result you’d expect. The Buccaneers dominated the run of play in the first half as North Kitsap struggled to get the ball out of its own end.
“We had to make some adjustments and the guys needed a big kick in the butt at halftime,” said North Kitsap head coach Greg St. Peter. We talked about [the first half] a little bit. We changed our formation and went with a little more speed.”
Those adjustments paid off as the Vikings quickly took charge. The players were quicker, more confident with the ball and controlled possession, keeping the Bucs away from the ball and their net.
Murphy, an all-state honorable mention as a sophomore, was in the middle of everything. Prior to scoring the only goal of the match, he had two other chances that nearly went in.
In the 53rd minute, he whistled a shot just wide of the far post from near the top of the 18-yard box. A few minutes later, a tremendous run up the middle of the Kingston defense nearly resulted in a tally, but he just missed tucking the ball inside the left post.
But as the Vikings mixed and matched their players and formations, they found a successful formula and the results were encouraging for a team that graduated 13 seniors from last year’s 2A state team. There are still plenty of matches yet to be played, but the victory over a quality Kingston team is a push in the right direction.
“The puzzle is starting to come together,” St. Peter said.
Kingston had more than its fair share of chances in the first half, racking up ten corner kicks and four free kicks from inside the halfway line.
Ben Hewett had a solid opportunity early as Dave Andersen’s free kick dropped right into his feet. He got plenty of leg on the kick, but missed the post by mere inches.
In the 27th minute, Caeleb Ortega headed a corner kick right into the crossbar before the Vikings were able to clear it. Late in the first half, Andersen ripped another free kick from 25 yards out just over the bar.
“We had plenty of opportunities with the ball in front of the net,” said Kingston head coach Craig Smith. “But they held. It was bend but not break for them.”