Vikings’ soccer team is second in the state

by Jefferson Freeman and Cienna Richardson

Orcas High School

That’s a wrap for the Orcas Island Vikings soccer team after competing in the state championships and bringing home the second-place trophy on Nov. 18.

After having to fight to even make the state tournament the Vikings found themselves matched up with the Evergreen Eagles, and for the first time all season, came back to win. Thanks to a bracket full of upsets the Vikings would get a rematch with the Providence Classical Christian Highlanders. In the two teams’ previous meeting, the Highlanders had shocked Orcas in overtime. With the Vikings seeking revenge for that Homecoming day shock, and the Highlanders looking to avenge their state tournament defeat to the Vikings in 2021, this game had more than just a trip to the championship at stake.

The Vikings wore their white jerseys with black shorts and white socks while Providence came out in all navy blue. With the kickoff at 7 p.m., temperatures hovered around 40 degrees and both teams were prepared for a battle in the cold. Gloves, vests, and puffy jackets were prominent additions to Viking fans’ wardrobe.

With two teams that had played each other as much as these two had (this was their 9th meeting in the last 4 seasons), it was going to take an exceptional effort to find a goal for either side. The game started with the ball flying back and forth with neither team looking that much better than the other. Energy was high in both the stands and on the field as both teams attempted to go for the kill early and often. Games at such a high pace of play rarely last this long but that night the ball never stopped moving. Of course in a game so competitive it would not be a build-up or set play to find the net but instead one kick.

Breathlessly fans watched as Jaquin Shanks Morales battled with a Providence player for possession with the ball ending up at the feet of Ethan Moss. Moss directed it into space for Shanks, who put a fake on the first defender before letting an incredible shot rip from 35 yards. His rocket of a hit would skip in front of the goal and bounce over the goalies’ stretched gloves to give the Vikings a stunning 1-0 lead, the crowd went wild. Shanks sprinted to the sideline to celebrate his goal with his team, already giving the Vikings momentum early in the game.

As time continued the Vikings were seeking a goal to take full control while the Highlanders were looking for a way back into the game. Orcas created their share of chances with one even hitting off the post but remaining in play. The play that would finally make the difference started again with Shanks-Morales, this time playing Lauro Quintero through into the box. Quintero, running with a defender who had about 100 lbs on him, had very little chance of winning the ball. Instead, he poked it back across the front of the goal. The ball seemed to be going by everyone and out of danger, but Jefferson Freeman made a run to the far post, and with more of a slide tackle than a real shot, Freeman smashed the ball into the window between the keeper and the post to make the game 2-0 Vikings. The energy was on their side from there on out and a 2-0 lead at halftime had Vikings faithful on their feet.

In a first half that was labeled by commentators as one of the highest-paced games of the year, the second half had no interest in slowing down. The Vikings kept pushing and eventually, they broke through. Shanks-Morales was involved again, this time giving Andrew Garcia a throw-in into space. Garcia received the ball from the sideline to his right and played it onto the left edge of the box, where Lauro Quintero was running. Quintero had a good position this time and wasted no steps as he used his right foot to curl the ball around the keeper and to the side netting on the far side. Quintero’s finish was a technical beauty and had the Vikings waiting for the clock to start celebrating a trip to the finals. Providence fought to the finish, and would even find a goal, but that would be all for the day as the Vikings took a 3-1 victory into the state final where they would meet Upper Columbia Academy.

After a dream game against the Highlanders, it was a nightmare start against Upper Columbia. After about a minute of play, a cross was played from the wing to a perfect spot on the six-yard box, where a Lions midfielder was running. With no defenders in his way, he slotted it past the keeper for a 1-0 lead. Going down wasn’t ideal, but with so much time in the game, the Vikings were still very much alive.

But bad turned to worse as a defensive turnover led to a quick Lions possession, and a shot from outside of the box went bar down to make it 2-0 Upper Columbia just 3 minutes in. From that point, the Vikings were scrambling. Unable to connect any through balls against Columbia’s now 5- or 6-man back line the Vikings were panicked. A free kick gave them life as Sam Sutton lofted one for a sea of Vikings, and Isaac Moss got a head to it. Moss was brought to the ground, along with the rest of the pile of players. The goal had the Vikings right back where they wanted to be until the referee signaled a foul. He called a foul on Moss for running into the keeper, despite the fact that the only contact between the two was when the keeper wrapped his arms around Moss when the ball was in the goal.

Review of the play showed that the call was clearly blown but there was nothing the Vikings could do. Fans furiously shouted at the ref but unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the only time that the referee left both onlookers and players alike stunned. His refusal to call a foul when the keeper charged through the legs of Jefferson Freeman kept the Vikings from a penalty kick at the end of the half. The reasoning was “he was playing the ball,” but the ball went out of bounds for a free kick, meaning he got no ball and only a Viking attacker.

Coming out of the half tensions were high as players had already been allowed to talk and lay hands on each other. Both verbal and physical interactions were common but again no indication that a referee was even present on the field. Concerned parents and onlookers took up shouting in order to attempt to keep their players safe on the field. The Vikings attacks were searching but couldn’t find anything through the second half. With Upper Columbia focusing purely on preventing a goal, Orcas struggled to create chances with attack speed. After 80 minutes of battling the full-time whistle blew. It was 2-0 Upper Columbia. Three horrific minutes summarized the entire game.

The end of the game finished in a drizzle with spectators and players’ moods matching the rain. The presentation of trophies was a tough moment for a team that had battled so hard to be here, but for where this team had been, it was a victory. This team looked like a long shot to even qualify for the state tournament, and they had come so close to winning the whole thing. Fans proudly cheered for the Vikings, thrilled that they made it so far.