By Bruce Sayler
Missoula Sentinel cashed in a good start and offensive balance to best Butte High 5-2 Saturday in a Western AA Conference high school boys’ soccer match at the Jeremy Bullock Memorial Soccer Fields.
The Spartans used a wind advantage in the first half expertly in the first half to construct a 3-0 lead. Though, temperatures fluctuated in the high 70s, a stiff, steady wind of 14 mph blew through the field from the southwest.
The game was also played with only two officials as the third failed to show. No reason was known.
“We played hard, just hard enough today,” Cody Carpenter, head coach of the Bulldogs, said. “We started a little flat=footed. We knew with them having the wind advantage, we had to start quick. We didn’t.”
Butte High flickered some hope after intermission and in a 4-0 deficit with two quick goals. Jack Luoma fed center back defender Zane Fredlund for a nearly coast-to-coast goal. Fredlund looped his shot from about 15 yards over the head of Sentinel goalkeeper Patrick Monroe and into the back of the goal to get the Bulldogs on the scoreboard.
Moments later, Cameron Tobiness stole the ball from a Sentinel defender, who had just gained possession on the Spartan end of the field. Tobiness scooted the ball ahead of him while crossing in front of the net before unloading from short range for the second Butte High goal.
Fredlund’s goal was the first of his career, Carpenter noted. Fredlund collapsed in the arms of his teammates, who mobbed the junior defender after the shot.
“A rocket shot right into the back of the net,” Carpenter described.
Sentinel scored five minutes into the match when Ben McKee knocked in a pass from Ivan Shadow off a rebound. About five minutes later, Curran Peeples scored from just in front of the Butte High net after receiving the set-up pass from Jayden Chong, The Spartans owned a 2-0 edge halfway through the first half.
Shadow connected with Luke Olsen in stride for a short run-up to the Bulldog net. It was two minutes before halftime and Olsen capitalized on the opportunity for the 3-0 Sentinel lead at the break.
Both Monroe and Butte High goalie Joe Shrader performed yeoman duty on the day with acrobatic saves and clutch deflections against good shooters in the bothersome wind.
An own goal deepened the Bulldogs’ hole early in the second half when a pass hooked from the far right side by Peeples ricocheted off a Butte High player and into the net.
The Bulldogs recovered, though, and scored the next two goals to halve their deficit.
The clock showed 23 minutes remained, but the defenses dominated. The goalies worked to keep shots from piercing the spaces between the pipes, and more of the game was played closer to midfield.
Jayce Gerstle scored for Sentinel on a long pass from Peeples, with the point kicked in on a near-perfect teardrop over and behind Shrader.
“We knew we could compete with this team,” Carpenter said. “They had better touch and fewer mistakes and that was the difference.
“I thought Joe had had some great saves. I thought Riley Doyle and Joe Philip did a great job of controlling the middle.”
It was thought on the sidelines that maybe two of the Sentinel goals were scored while the team was offsides, but the infractions being out of view of the officials working a ref short.
“They’re just a better team,” Carpenter said of the Spartans’ win.
The Bulldogs will take a 2-4 record into a Western AA match at Missoula Hellgate on Tuesday in their next match.