Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Kenai Central sophomore Braydon Goodman (10) celebrates his goal in the first half of Saturday's Northern Lights Conference championship game at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Kenai Central sophomore Braydon Goodman (10) celebrates his goal in the first half of Saturday's Northern Lights Conference championship game at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai.

Kenai boys soccer claims region title

A sense of urgency hung in the air midway through the second half of Saturday’s Northern Lights Conference boys championship game. The host Kenai Central boys soccer team held a fragile one-goal lead against a powerful Colony Knights squad and was facing a troublesome headwind to boot.

It all changed in the blink of an eye when Kardinals freshman Damien Redder dropped the dagger with four minutes left in regulation. Redder countered Colony’s heavy offensive push to score in the 76th minute and put the Kardinals in the driver’s seat for the NLC crown. Kenai won 3-1 to capture the team’s second boys title in school history, adding to the one the Kards won in 2008.

“This is big, especially doing it at home,” Redder said after the game. “It’s an amazing feeling.”

The rising Kenai boys squad secured the title with supreme defense, anchored by junior co-captain Max Dye, but it was the youth movement that pulled off the offensive fireworks. Redder was joined in the scoring column by sophomore teammates Zack Tuttle and Braydon Goodman, both of whom tallied goals in the first half.

“It’s a great team effort, honestly,” Tuttle said. “We knew we could do it, we just had to fight for it.”

Kenai head coach Joel Reemtsma, a 2000 Kenai Central graduate, cast perspective on the victory.

“It means the world to me … I’m struggling to find the words,” Reemtsma said. “It’s another check off the list.”

After securing the program’s first state tournament victory last May, the current Kenai boys squad is now setting its sights on the big prize.

“We need to come out and have the firepower we had this weekend,” Tuttle said. “Keep it rolling.”

“We know the odds are long, but they’re not zero,” added Reemtsma.

On the other side of the field, the Knights were soaking in the stunning loss, a rarity for Colony at the region tournament.

“I told my kids, I can’t fault your effort, we just got beat today,” said Colony coach Jeremy Johnson. “We weren’t the better team today.”

The turn of momentum when Redder scored in the dying minutes was one of several stellar plays throughout the game. Redder collected a through ball from Tuttle in the midfield, and sprinted down the right wing to set himself in perfect position to strike.

“I saw the back post open, and I just finished it,” Redder said.

The two top seeded teams in the tournament provided a thrilling battle that at times became chippy as the two sides battled hard for the win. Knights midfielder Cade Johnstone was issued a yellow card in the 17th minute for an aggressive takedown, and Kenai sophomore Rykker Riddall was carded in the 26th minute for an elbow to a Colony defender.

Goodman broke through in the 31st minute, putting in a header on a corner kick that initially glanced off Tuttle in the goalie box. Goodman, who is nicknamed “Iron Dome” for his ability to get his head on airborne balls — particularly a game winner last year against Homer that gave Kenai the No. 1 seed in the 2015 region tournament — said the goal came at the right time for him, as he had struggled most of the season on getting those kind of shots.

“I had good placement from Damien,” Goodman said. “It was great. I’ve never had this feeling before.”

Max Dye assisted Tuttle just two minutes after Goodman’s goal with a well-placed free kick taken from midfield, which glanced off Colony goalie Chance Fannon and into the clutches of Tuttle, who deftly knocked in the goal for a 2-0 Kenai lead.

“They got some good forwards, so it’s a good challenge for our defense,” Tuttle said. “But Max (Dye) is a beast on those through balls.”

With the powerful Kenai winds blowing in from the Southwest, the Knights were the ones facing the breeze in the first half. Johnson said his squad, particularly fearless seniors Alex Valdez and region MVP Ben Sande, had trouble dealing with the ball travel.

“(Kenai) had a long ball that our goalkeeper wasn’t able to handle and it went out for a corner kick, and our guy wasn’t able to grab it,” Johnson said about the first goal. “With 10 minutes to go (in the second half), they were able to counter on us and they outnumbered us, and (Redder) had a beautiful shot.”

Valdez provided the lone goal for Colony in the 61st minute with a stunning sequence of dribbles from the right corner of the goal box.

Soldotna boys 5, Kodiak 2

The Stars clinched the third and final state spot Saturday afternoon with a convincing win over the Bears at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai.

Timmy Smithwick notched a hat trick to lead SoHi to the win in the NLC tournament third-place game, which gave the Stars their first appearance at state since 2013.

“They’ve now realized they’re a state team,” said Soldotna coach Darryl Byerley. “It was a physically challenging game, we’ve had three in a row and both of us played an overtime game.”

Smithwick opened the scoring with a header off a corner kick from Dylan Kuntz eight minutes in, then added goals in the 29th and 47th minutes, the former coming on a 30-yard shot that settled into the top left corner of the netting, and the latter on a left-footed shot at near range.

Ben Godfrey scored for SoHi in the last minute of the first half, giving the Stars a 3-1 lead at halftime, and a Kodiak defender tipped in an own goal in the 66th minute for SoHi.

Daniel Beltran and Emerson Portillo notched goals for Kodiak in the 15th and 49th minutes, respectively.

Soldotna outshot Kodiak 11-6 overall.

 

First team All-Tournament

MVP — Ben Sande, Colony.

Zack Tuttle, Kenai; Brandon Banks, Palmer; Cade Johnstone, Colony; Daniel Beltran, Kodiak; Kyle Broach, Wasilla; Max Dye, Kenai; Dylan Kuntz, Soldotna; Emerson Portillo, Kodiak; Nazai Pavlus, Wasilla; Nick Snow, Grace; Charles Rohr, Homer; Eric Mayoral, Soldotna; Jose Cortez, Kodiak.

Second team All-Tournament

Alex Valdez, Colony; Josh Spannagel, Colony; Simon Dye, Homer; Nouredine Mama, Homer; Ean Atchley, Kenai; Kevin Ramos, Kenai; Cameron Shaw, Colony; Tristan Landry, Kenai; Timmy Smithwick, Soldotna; Caleb Woods, Grace; Tommy Florez, Soldotna; Nikita Antonov, Wasilla; Braydon Goodman, Kenai; Tim Voloshin, Wasilla; Julio Rodriguez, Kodiak; John Burton, Palmer.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Colony forward Alex Valdez (11) battles for possession with Kenai Central midfielder Kevin Ramos in Saturday's Northern Lights Conference championship game at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Colony forward Alex Valdez (11) battles for possession with Kenai Central midfielder Kevin Ramos in Saturday’s Northern Lights Conference championship game at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai.

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