LAKEWOOD, Wash. – The Stadium Tigers left no doubt that they were the best team Friday.
The Ferris Saxons, though, showed why they deserved to be on the same field with the top-ranked 4A boys soccer team.
Stadium used a second-half goal to stop Ferris 1-0 in the State 4A semifinals at Clover Park High School’s Harry E. Lang Stadium.
The Saxons (12-7-1) meet Federal Way, a 2-0 loser to Lake Stevens, to decide third and fourth places today at noon. Stadium (18-1) takes on Lake Stevens in the championship match.
For nearly 60 minutes, Ferris stifled a high-octane offense. Stadium senior forwards Jameal Cox and Dylan Gaydosh had scored a combined 62 goals.
Stadium’s goal didn’t come off a well-executed attack. The Tigers, ranked No. 8 in the nation in one poll, were more opportunistic than anything, using a long pass to the far post that Edgar Vega headed in from 4 yards out with 21 minutes, 47 seconds remaining.
The Saxons’ defenders – Alex Cano, Alex Belling, Justin Louik and Sam Butler – combined with goalie Nick Stebbins to do an admirable job slowing down the Tigers’ attack.
“Our defense played really well,” Ferris senior forward Alec Cutter said. “That’s one of the biggest reasons why we were here. We definitely should be proud of what we did. Nobody expected us to get this far. We played one of the best teams in the nation to the wire.”
In the first half, Stebbins came out of the crease to cut down the angle when Cox got loose behind the defense. The speedy Cox fired a shot just wide of Stebbins that caromed off the right goal post with 11:36 to go before intermission.
Gaydosh had a good look with 16 seconds to go before halftime, but Stebbins somehow managed to get a hand up just in time as he was falling backward trying to retreat.
Ferris’ best second-half opportunity came 5 minutes before the Tigers scored. Cutter had a good look, but the ball sailed just wide.
“I thought it was going in,” he said. “It was curving away from the post the whole time. The turf was really slick and it kept moving wide.”
Stebbins, who has had eight shutouts this season, got help just 53 seconds into the second half when Belling cleared a ball deep on a potential scoring opportunity.
“I’m pretty sure they were expecting to blow right by us,” Stebbins said. “But we definitely worked hard. Our main goal right off the bat was to pressure them and show them we weren’t an easy ticket into the championships.”
The Saxons’ final serious scoring threat came with 19:37 to go off a corner kick that Butler got a head on but was cleared away.
“Like I said before, our defense has been strong all year,” Ferris coach Robin Crain said. “I think we can shut just about anybody down.
“We just had that unfortunate goal. The ball got to the far post and the kid made a good header. We played our hearts out. No complaint from me.”