Success in close games this season helped the Wood River High School boys' varsity soccer team to major progress over last fall and a final 8-9-1 record, very close to the school's first winning season on the pitch since making state in 2005.
But the Burley Bobcats (11-8-1) ended Wood River's hopes for a winning season and a possible shot at the State 4A tournament with a 2-1 overtime win last Tuesday in an elimination game of the Great Basin Conference West tournament.
Senior Pablo Marin (penalty kick) broke open a scoreless game midway through the second half of a game played at the neutral O'Leary Middle School site in Twin Falls. Sophomore Bryan Donoso equalized for Wood River on a strong individual play.
Then, about six minutes in the first overtime period, Burley's Woody Anguiano buried a 25-yard free kick to end the very physical, closely-played game—Burley's second straight narrow win over the much-improved Wolverines.
Wood River coach Matt Phillips said, "The kids were disappointed but proud of their accomplishments this season in a very, very competitive league. The last game was a tough, back-and-forth fight—Burley was the most physical team we've competed with."
Phillips didn't agree with the penalty kick whistle, called after an aggressive play by junior keeper Colter Brehmer ("Colter slid with his feet rather than using his hands, perfectly legal," Phillips said.) In addition, he said top scorer Morgan Pike was taken down in the penalty area several times, without a call.
Burley also seemed to be pulled offsides on Anguiano's game winner in overtime. Wood River players stopped moving because they thought the play should have been stopped. "There was no flag and no whistle," Phillips said. He added, "Call or not, we should always play to the whistle."
He added about losing to 2003-06 Great Basin champ Burley, "We stuck to our game plan and played good, clean soccer."
Winning close games was a big part of Wood River's turnaround from last fall's 3-9-2 campaign. This season, 12 of the 18 WRHS games were settled by two goals or less, and Wood River went 7-4-1 in those close games. Last fall, 11 of 14 games were settled by two goals or less, and the Wolverines were 3-6-1 in them.
Hillcrest of Idaho Falls, frustrated by losses in state play-in games over the past three years, ended Burley's season 1-0 Saturday in Pocatello on a second-half goal by Matt Holm. Burley had beaten Pocatello 2-0 Thursday to make the play-in.
The outcome meant that undefeated and top-ranked Jerome (17-0-1) is the only GBW representative in the three-day, eight-school State 4A tournament Oct. 23-25 in Caldwell. Jerome, a 2-0 winner over Burley in the GBW finale, opens Thursday at 11 a.m. against last year's third-place finisher Middleton (10-6-3).
Jerome is in the same bracket as Sandpoint (16-1-0), five-time state champ from 2000-02 plus 2004 and 2006. In the other bracket are last year's finalists, defending state champ Bonneville of Idaho Falls (10-5-0) and Skyview (19-0-0).
Final team statistics: Wood River 8-9-1 (3-2-0 home, 5-7-1 away). Goals scored: 31. Goals against: 47. Individual scoring: Morgan Pike 8 goals, Austin Cruz 7, Bryan Donoso 4, Felipe Raygoza 3, Austin Moses 2, Kyler VanDyck 2, David Dredge 1, Charlie Evans 1, Chris de la Cruz 1, John Leavell 1 and Thomas Goettelman 1.