Wolves have no answer for Bellarmine

They stood inside the goal before kickoff, collecting and sharing their thoughts, looking for a way to finally clinch the top seed in the Narrows League.

They stood inside the goal before kickoff, collecting and sharing their thoughts, looking for a way to finally clinch the top seed in the Narrows League.

But even after all the consideration, preparation and motivational tactics, the result still was the same as every season in South Kitsap High School coach Eric Bergeson’s 11-year tenure.

Bellarmine Prep relegated the Wolves to the second seed in the West Central District Tournament with a 2-0 win Tuesday night in the Narrows League Tournament championship match.

The Wolves (12-2-2), who play Todd Beamer at 1 p.m. Saturday, played the final 35 minutes with an 11-on-10 advantage because Lions’ midfielder John McDonald was issued a red card. But that didn’t seem to make much difference as South still struggled to apply pressure on Bellarmine Prep’s defense.

“We didn’t score even against 10 men, so that says it all,” Bergeson said. “We don’t have anything we can complain about. We didn’t do our job.”

South wasn’t able to capitalize on a referee’s decision the way the Lions (18-1-0) did. Wolves goalkeeper Daniel Lathrop saved a pair of chances near the goal before a teammate was called for a handball with 1:30 left in the first half. Midfielder Tyler Mernaugh converted a chest-high penalty kick to Lathrop’s left that gave the Lions a 1-0 advantage.

“I didn’t agree with the red card anymore than I agreed with the penalty,” Bergeson said. “Funny how they come in pairs. If I’m their coach, I don’t like a make-up red card any better than I liked any of it.”

Bergeson followed with an animated discussion with the officials at halftime.

“You don’t like having the game taken out of your hands from 45 yards away in the deep corner when there’s a guy 10 yards away in position,” he said. “His explanation to me was that he (the center ref) called it. I think we all know that that’s not true. And I said, ‘Why don’t you go confer with your linesman if that’s the case?’ I said, ‘You were on top of it, you decided not to call it, you didn’t want to overrule your linesman and you guys took the game out of our hands.’”

Waters acknowledged that his team benefited from the call, but didn’t seem to care for it.

“It’s a reaction move from the kid, it’s not anything intentional,” he said. “But it’s just one of those things that happens. You feel sorry for him in a game like this that something like that happens.”

As for the red card, he said it was “stressful, but the referee has his job to do and that’s the end of it.”

Waters said he was proud of his team’s defensive effort, particularly by sophomore forward Dylan Gaydosh.

“I thought Dylan Gaydosh when he played up front was absolutely brilliant,” he said. “He covered every blade of grass on the field and he ran every ball down for us.”

The Lions extended their lead to 2-0 in the 55th when junior forward Ryan Rash took a header from Elliot Morton and beat Lathrop to his left.

“He (Rash) leaps like a young, small salmon going upstream,” Waters said. “He’s absolutely unbelievable.”

Despite the penalty, Bergeson said “there’s no way” he can blame the officials for the loss.

“I think it was clear even when they had 11 men that we had an opportunity to possess the ball and we just didn’t do it,” he said. “We were unwilling to slow down, they closed on us fast and I think made us a little bit nervous and we played like it.”

He said the team might have been thinking about today’s game and how “important it is for us to get back to state.”

And they’ll find out soon enough if those thoughts turn into the reality of their first state-playoff appearance in two years.