Thanks to stingy defense and a relentless offense led by junior striker Jay Fitzgerald, the Community School boys’ varsity soccer team has rolled into the High Desert Soccer Conference tournament championship game.
Fitzgerald (32 goals season, 62 career) ripped off his sixth three-goal hat trick of the season leading the No. 1-seeded Cutthroats to a 6-0 romp over No. 5-seeded Buhl Tribe in a HDSC tournament semi-final game at Elkhorn’s Browning Field.
Coach Richard Whitelaw’s “Man of the Match” Fitzgerald was joined in scoring by Johnny Blackburn, Keegan Whitelaw and Alex Schwartz. Senior goalkeeper Willis Sanchez-duPont notched his 10th shutout in 17 games this fall.
Unbeaten in their last seven games since a 2-1 home loss to Wendell Sept. 15, the Cutthroats (13-3-1) will now host No. 2-seeded Wendell (11-0-3) on Wednesday, Oct. 15 in the 4:30 p.m. conference championship game at Browning Field.
The winner Wednesday advances as the No. 1 seed out of the 4th District to the eight-team State 3A tournament Oct. 23-25 at SunWay Soccer Complex in Twin Falls.
The highly-regarded Cutthroats are seeking the school’s first HDSC tournament title since 2007. Wendell’s unbeaten Trojans last won the league championship in 2010.
Wendell advanced into Wednesday’s final with a 9-2 rout over No. 3-seeded Gooding (8-6-2) on its homefield Monday. Gooding, the two-time defending State 3A champion, will host Buhl Wednesday trying to stay alive in the tournament.
The Cutthroats are winless in their last five meetings with Wendell since a 2-0 victory at Wendell on Sept. 17, 2013. They’ve been outscored 15-4 in those five games including the 6-1 battering in last year’s State 3A tournament consolation final in Caldwell.
Yet this year’s Cutthroat edition is much improved both on offense and defense compared to last fall.
This year’s Cutthroats have scored 96 goals in 17 games compared to the 69 goals tallied by the 2013 team in 22 outings. On defense, the Cutthroats have allowed 12 goals in 17 games (32 goals in 2013).
Fitzgerald’s goal in stoppage time salvaged a 1-1 tie at Wendell Oct. 8 that earned the Cutthroats the regular-season league title and hosting rights for Wednesday’s title contest.
The losing team from Wednesday’s Community School clash with Wendell hosts the winner of Gooding-Buhl on Friday, Oct. 17 at 4:30 p.m. for the league’s second berth to state.
Looking down the line, but not too far, the HDSC tournament winner will play its first State 3A tournament game Thursday, Oct. 23 at 2 p.m. against an eastern Idaho squad that survives an Oct. 18 state play-in battle.
The HDSC runner-up will meet the northern Idaho champion at 11 a.m. Oct. 23.