Opportunism was its own reward as Cheney captured the top seed to Thursday’s 3A regional tournament with a 3-2 win over Greater Spokane League co-champion East Valley on Tuesday at Spokane Falls Community College.
In a match of contrasting halves for District 8 seeding, Cheney’s Blackhawks built a 2-0 lead with a dominant first-half effort and the Knights rallied to tie by controlling the second half.
Though the contest didn’t go into overtime, it may as well have. Mitch Weller turned a dropped free-kick save by Knights goalkeeper Josh Peck into the winning score in the fourth minute of added time onto the end of regulation.
“It was like a gift,” said the freshman midfielder. “I knew there wasn’t much time left, knew we were going to take a fast run and just figured, why not follow it in?”
For Peck, a sophomore, the muffed save was rare. He had seven shutouts and allowed more than one goal in only one other match this season.
“Our keeper doesn’t drop many like that,” said EV coach Jeff Rose.
The victory keeps the Blackhawks (11-5-1) at home Thursday for a match against Mid-Valley No. 2 West Valley of Yakima (12-4), tentatively scheduled for 4 p.m. The Knights (12-3) play at Mid-Valley champion Hanford (14-2), also at 4 p.m.
West Valley-Spokane (6-11), a 3-2 winner over North Central (2-15) in the opener at SFCC, hosts Mid-Valley No. 4 Prosser (8-8) at 5 p.m., in a loser-out contest of the eight-team playoff.
Ten minutes into the evening’s final contest, Cheney’s Jaime Rebuetta found himself wide open near the net and made his attempt.
Cheney’s lone senior, midfielder Jeff Davis, made a spectacular run when a free kick by Ben Funkhouser was headed away by Blackhawks defenders. He found Jess Donnerberg alone behind the defense and Donnerberg converted at 28 minutes.
“I needed to do what I can,” said Davis. “It was just a good counter attack. I found Jess running up in front and got a flick in.”
The game turned around dramatically in the second half. Funkhouser’s sideline kick found Ryan Orwick inside the near post and he kicked it home at the 49-minute mark.
Funkhouser tied the match with 9 minutes to go on a 30-foot free kick that slid into the left corner.
But the physical and foul-filled contest dragged on, the second half lasting nearly 6 minutes longer than usual. The referee said it was because of injuries and long kicks beyond the end-line.
“It was long, no doubt about it,” said Rose, of the unusual amount of extended time.
“We had a little bit of a run of the plate in the first half,” said Cheney coach Steve Davis, “had a chance to finish one there and were fortunate.”
West Valley 3, North Central 2
In a nearly identical match that preceded, WV’s Eagles took a 2-0 lead on a second-half score by Clancy Bundy. They watched the Indians come back to tie on Travis Green’s score with 5 minutes left. But Camron Bowman got free with an 8-yard flick and hit a shot from the far right that snuck just inside the left post with less than a minute to play.