Clayton Paull knew the long ball was coming. Cedar Kelly wasn’t so sure.
With the Ferris boys soccer team leading Walla Walla by one goal with 10 minutes to play, Paull sprinted up the middle of the field just as Kelly gained possession on the Saxons’ end and looked to make a short pass.
“Then I saw the gap,” said Kelly, who delivered the soccer equivalent of a Hail Mary pass. Paull found it in stride, then delivered the state-tournament-clinching goal in a 4-1 win Saturday afternoon at Albi Stadium.
“I knew that one of my guys on defense would play it big,” said Paull, a senior forward who finished with a hat trick.
“They play great balls, I’m so proud of them,” said Paull, whose first shot was blocked by Blue Devils goalkeeper Mason Aherns. But Paull gathered in the rebound and fired into the open net to all but clinch the match.
The win sends the Saxons (12-5) to the State 4A playoffs, which begins next week. Ferris will face Mt. Rainier of Des Moines at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Spokane Falls Community College.
“I’ve never been to state in anything,” said Paull, who also wrestled and played football for the Saxons. “This feels great, and it’s fantastic to play in front of the home crowd.”
Ferris was coming off a 2-1 loss Tuesday at Richland, costing the Saxons the regional title and forcing a must-win game Saturday.
“We really pounded it in practice (Thursday and Friday),” Kelly said. “Everybody wanted this one.”
The Saxons struck 8 minutes into the match. Terry Cox found Matt Belles, who shot across the goal and into the left corner.
Walla Walla countered in the 15th minute. Jose Mayo gathered the ball just before it crossed the goal line and passed to Francisco Sanchez, who headed the ball past Ferris goalkeeper Beau Lockmer.
Four minutes later, Belles sent a long ball down the right sideline to Paull, who took what looked like an impossibly sharp-angled shot – which flew past Aherns and just inside the left post.
The Saxons dominated play throughout, outshooting the Blue Devils 14-8, and Paull might have had several more goals but for some great saves by Aherns. That included a point-blank save off a header five minutes before halftime, and several other near-misses in the second half.
“You have to persevere,” said Paull, who completed the scoring in the final minute by pouncing on a bad pass to make it 4-1.
Hanford 2, Shadle Park 0: In the second game of the day’s doubleheader at Albi Stadium, the Falcons scored two first-half goals to qualify for state and eliminate the Highlanders.
Shadle Park, which won the District 8 3A title and was the top seed in the regionals, dropped its second straight match to finish 8-12.
The Highlanders came out more aggressively than they did in a 3-0 regional loss to Kennewick on Thursday, but were undone by problems in their own goalbox.
Midway through the first half, a Hanford free kick landed in a crowded goalmouth, but the Falcons’ William Bishop was there to tap it home.
Seconds before halftime, Hanford’s William Eldred pounced on another loose ball to give the Falcons a 2-0 lead.
2A regionals: Trevan Estrellado scored twice and assisted on a third goal as Cheney defeated visiting Toppenish 3-1 to return to the State 2A tournament.
Micah Weller assisted on both of Estrellado’s goals.
The Blackhawks (16-2), state runners-up four of the last five years, will open state on their home field at 4 p.m. Wednesday against West Valley of Yakima (13-4-1).
Meanwhile, East Valley won 2-1 in a shootout at Ellensurg to advance to state as well.
Hartvig Bondo scored a penalty-kick goal in the 60th minute to knot the match at 1.
Bondo, Adam Talley and Conner Kinnune all scored shootout goals for East Valley.
The Knights will play next week at District 5/6 champion Grandview.