Thoughts turned to the future Saturday after the Wood River High School boys' varsity soccer team fell to Jerome 1-0 and also fell short of its ultimate goal of returning to the State 4A tournament in 2006.
Relying on inexperienced varsity players and freshmen, Wood River (5-11-1) suffered its first losing season since 1996 and saw its string of nine consecutive state soccer tournament trips come to an end.
Third-year Wolverine head coach Farrell Swain said, "Our juniors have stepped up so much this year. I think we'll be great next year."
Wood River played hard down the homestretch including the Great Basin West Conference tournament over the past week. But the team struggled to score all season (27 goals in 17 games) and that was the case in the four-team tourney.
The #2-seeded Wolverines lost to #3-seeded Jerome 3-2 Thursday on the Hailey pitch. Friday, Wood River came back and played what Swain called "its best game of the season" in a 5-1 home win that ousted #4-seeded Minico (3-15-0).
Saturday, Wood River couldn't muster enough scoring opportunities and fell at Jerome 1-0—its third loss in seven days to Jerome after the Hailey had owned the Tigers with an 11-0 record and 51-8 goals-against dating to 1997.
Regular-season league champ Burley (17-0-0) kept its unbeaten boast alive and won its second straight Great Basin title with a 4-0 home win over Jerome (6-11-2) Monday. Burley earned an automatic return trip to the State 4A tournament Oct. 19-21 at Meridian.
Consistency was something that Wood River sought all season. Lack of consistency was something Swain lamented after Thursday's 3-2 loss to Jerome. The Wolverines had a 14-7 shooting advantage but always played from behind.
Passing crisply with the wind at its back, Wood River forced Jerome senior goalkeeper Javier Avila to make six saves in the first half. The Tigers scored on their first shot, though, taken by Junior Sanchez. The Wolverines equalized 1-1 on senior co-captain Ben Gourlay's 30-yard direct kick that passed through the wall and beat Avila in the corner.
Jerome's Gabriel Pulido chipped a ball past Hailey freshman keeper Colter Brehmer (5 saves) for a 2-1 Tiger lead at 46 minutes. Hailey tied it 2-2 four minutes later when Kyler VanDyck tipped a Ross Parsons direct kick in the box, and the ball ricocheted home off a Jerome player.
Sergio Martinez of Jerome, a freshman, scored the game winner at the 62-minute mark.
Friday's 5-1 home victory over Minico was the culmination of hard work. Swain said, "We pressed and pressed and we were due. Things all fell into place. We moved the ball well, were more consistent and played our best game."
Wood River out-shot Minico 26-5, had a 7-0 advantage in corner kicks and forced Spartan senior goalkeeper Miguel Guillen to make 13 saves in the first half alone.
Junior co-captain Parsons buried a Morgan Pike corner kick for a 1-0 lead at 23 minutes. After another fearless run by speedy frosh phenom Pike in the midfield, Parsons centered a ball that soph Austin Moses headed home for his first goal at 37 minutes and a 2-0 lead.
Minico's Guillen, shifted upfield in the second half to spark the offense, scored on a long ball from Adrian Toolson at 48 minutes. But Wood River battled back. Strong work by senior Teton Brown kept the ball in the offensive zone, where junior co-captain Axel Peterson sent a cross pass that Moses kicked home.
Wood River scored twice more—Pike floating home a 38-yard shot for a 4-1 cushion and junior Erwin Roman making a strong move in the box after taking a lead pass from junior midfielder Ruben Hinojo.
Swain said, "We dominated the midfield. Morgan and Ross really stepped up. But everybody did. Erwin and Ruben are out there working hard all the time. Same with Kyle (Rose) and Kyler (VanDyck). Really, it was a huge team effort."
Final WRHS boys' stats: 5-11-1 overall record (3-6 home, 2-5-1 away); third place Great Basin Conference West. Offense: 27 goals (1.6). Defense: 47 goals (2.8).
Individual scoring: Erwin Roman 4 goals, Morgan Pike 4, Carl Jablonski 4, Ross Parsons 3, Max Kwok 3, Teton Brown 2, Austin Moses 2, Ben Gourlay 2, Kyler VanDyck 1, Travis Amick 1, own goal.