The North Coast Section soccer playoffs got under way on Wednesday with five local teams in action, including an all-H-DNL showdown between the McKinleyville and Del Norte boys in Crescent City.
The Panthers won the game 1-0 and will now advance in the Division-I bracket to play No. 2 seed Making Waves, a team they barely lost to early in the season.
Also in action on Wednesday, the Eureka boys fell 4-1 at St. Helena, while the Arcata boys won 7-0 at home to Lower Lake.
In girls action, the South Fork girls lost out on a penalty shootout in a highly entertaining game against Calistoga at Middletown.
For more on the Arcata game, see Tigers win big in playoff opener …
Panthers remain hot with mistake-free performance
There’s something to be said for peaking at the right time, and that’s exactly what the McKinleyville Panthers appear to be doing.
After a disappointing run through the opening half of league play, the Mack boys have picked up the level of their game over the last few weeks, and on Wednesday they knocked off Del Norte 1-0 in Crescent City.
“We’re finally getting back on track the last month or so, but today was our first 80-minute game,” McKinleyville head coach Ryne Deppe said. “We didn’t make any mistakes.”
Narayan Weibel scored the only goal of the game early on, off another brilliant shot from long range.
Weibel also scored a long-range beauty against Fortuna in the regular season finale.
“It was special,” Deppe said of the goal. “The guy now has two clutch goals after not scoring much all season. He always said he would score when it counted, and he backed that up.”
It was all the No. 10 seed Panthers needed against a Del Norte team that was unbeaten in eight straight league games to close out the regular season.
In midfield, Mack’s Dustyn Huneke did an outstanding job, while defensively Lalo Benavides-Garb helped secure the shutout in front of goalie Ethan Shelly.
The win sets up a showdown against No. 2 seed Making Waves at Salesian High School on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Eureka boys fall to St. Helena in D-I action
The No. 12 seed Loggers led by a goal at halftime, but were unable to make it stick as No. 6 St. Helena scored four times in the second half.
“We were outplaying them, but in the second half our mistakes cost us,” Eureka head coach Eddie Garcia said.
Luis Romero scored the team’s only goal off a Jesse Bravo assist.
Center backs Jacob Alston and Vic Vang each played well in the heart of defense, keeping the higher seeds at bay for the first half, before a second-half injury to Vang proved to be costly.
“They held it down,” Garcia said of the duo. “But Vic went down and that really hurt us.”
The team’s four seniors all played well in their final game, including Alston, Gallegos, Christian Bravo and Grant Barerra.
“We’ll miss them,” Garcia said of his seniors, adding that he’s excited to have the majority of his squad coming back next year.
“We had our ups and downs, and we’ve got to learn to be more consistent,” the head coach said.
South Fork girls do down fighting in D-III game
The No. 5 South Fork girls turned in one of their best performances of the season against No. 4 Calistoga at Middletown, barely losing 4-2 in a penalty shootout after a 0-0 tie in regulation.
“It was a great game,” South Fork head coach Ann Constantino said. “It was one of those games it was a shame someone had to lose.”
According to the coach, all 13 of her players contributed in a strong team effort, as the No. 5 seed Cubs outshot the No. 4 Wildcats 14-9.
“We had great scoring chances, we just couldn’t finish,” the head coach said.
Sophomore Kaylee Cotter was outstanding marking Calistoga’s best player, holding her in check throughout.
“She shut down their star,” Constantino said.
Overall, the coach was more than happy with her team’s effort despite seeing their season come to end.
“Everybody walked off the field really happy,” Constantino said. “Everybody was clicking, everybody played well, everybody found each other, it was just a great way to end the season.”
Junior standout Lyndsee Brewer posted the shutout in goal for the Cubs, her third of the year, capping an impressive individual season for the shot stopper who frustrated bigger schools all season.
She had six saves.
A young Cubs team featured just two seniors this season, and both closed out with a bang.
Midfielder Harley Bates and defender Mirna Navarrete were each outstanding in their final high school games.
Calistoga, who had 12 seniors, now advances to play at No. 1 seed Technology on Saturday.
Ray Hamill writes at humboldtsports.com, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.