It's always good to have a hot goalkeeper at tournament time, and that's what The Community School boys' soccer team is relying upon in the seven-team High Desert Soccer Conference tournament.
Senior Riley Berman is that man, and he'll be seeing quite a bit of action in the next week as the wide-open High Desert crowns its champion and sends the winner and runner-up off to the State 3A soccer tournament Oct. 23-25 in Caldwell.
First, the Fish finish their regular season today at Declo, looking for their first win since Sept. 17 and needing a win to clinch homefield advantage for Saturday's first round of the Great Basin tournament.
The Cutthroats have won at home on an own goal over a pesky Declo team 2-1 Sept. 15. That's the only time the Cutthroats (2-5-4 in games settled by 2 goals or fewer) have prevailed in a one-goal game.
But Friday's game with Wendell was extremely encouraging. Cutthroat coach Richard Whitelaw said, "What an exciting game! End to end stuff! We finally strung two halves together. It was our best outing of the season by far.
"We wanted to peak at the right time and really, the regular-season record doesn't mean much. It's what you do in the tournament that counts."
"Man of the Match" Berman sparkled between the pipes Friday as the Cutthroats (4-7-4, 4-4-3 league) held top-seeded and #5-ranked Wendell (9-1-2 league, 5 shutouts) to a 0-0 tie at Browning Field in Elkhorn.
Wendell, an offensive threat to everybody else, must be a decent match-up for coach Whitelaw's Fish, who fell 2-1 on the Trojan pitch Sept. 3. And keep in mind Wendell has only lost 3-0 at home to Bliss, and tied Buhl 1-1 on the road.
It means that the Cutthroats, having struggled on offense all fall after scoring 84 times last fall, could be on the verge of something big, a breakthrough goal, for instance, as long as Berman keeps them in the game with his leadership, long kicks and aggressive saves.
Since coming back from their school trips, Whitelaw's lads have played tough against the top three High Desert teams—falling 2-1 at #3-seeded Buhl (7-3-3, 6-2-3) last Monday and nearly upsetting Bliss (8-4-1, 7-3-1) at home Wednesday.
And, of course, Friday's Cutthroat home field tie with Wendell, a team that had humbled Buhl at home 4-0 last Wednesday and ventured into Bliss and came away with a league-clinching 3-2 victory Monday afternoon. That made today's Bliss home match against Buhl academic, an 80-minute battle for second place.
Monday's Wendell win at Bliss also meant that Whitelaw's team, by winning its all-important first-round tourney game Saturday, Oct. 11 at 11 a.m. on Browning Field, will travel to top-seeded Wendell Monday, Oct. 13 at 4:30 p.m. for the semi-final contest.
"All-important" is the word for the three first-round games to be played Saturday because they are all "loser out," meaning win or go home.
Only if you win your first game do you have a chance to win another and advance directly into the title game, or come around through the back door and have a chance for the tourney runner-up state berth.
The top two teams in the High Desert boys' tournament make it to the State 3A tournament in Caldwell.
There is no state play-in game for the boys, like there was last year when the Cutthroats beat Bliss 6-2 for the league title, and Wendell lost 4-0 to Teton in a cross-district state play-in game.