Whitefish ends Park High State finals run 3-0

Jeff Schlapp
Monday, October 25, 2021
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Park High Ranger Brando Smith plays Saturday at McLeod Field in Livingston, during State soccer semifinals against Whitefish. Enterprise photo by Jeff Schlapp

The Park High Rangers were one victory away from the Class “A” State finals on Saturday when they hosted the Whitefish Bulldogs at McLeod Field. But the Bulldogs ended the Rangers season with a hard fought and tense 3-0 victory.

With their hopes set on earning their first State appearance as a team, the Rangers took the field on a cloudy and cool afternoon. There was a large turnout of fans for the match with the fans being equally represented for both teams. Rangers coach Jeff Dickerson had his players peaking at the right time, and every Ranger fan brought with them high hopes for a victory. When the match began the Rangers showed their strong defense by controlling the ball and moving the ball into the attack zone of the Bulldogs.

If a match could turn on one play it may have come early in the first half when Calvin Caplis and Alec Dalby teamed up near the 18-yard box where Caplis was able to squeeze in a pass to Dalby who fired a shot which was barely stopped by the Bulldogs goal keeper.

The Bulldogs seemed to gain momentum from that one play. From that point on during the first half they were able to maintain a strong attack in the Rangers defensive zone. But Rangers goal keeper Brandon Smith was up to the task. At the 30 minute Smith made his presence known by making a brilliant save off a Bulldogs penalty kick. Smith continued to show his keeper skills as he made 4 consecutive saves over the next 8-minutes.

The Rangers were playing bend but don’t break defense. Until the 14:28 mark of the first half when the Bulldogs were able to place a perfectly struck kick past Smith’s outstretched hands.

Smith made three more saves, with Colter Edwards assisting on one of the saves at the 9-minute mark.

Then with just over 2-minutes left in the first half, a Bulldog took a pass just outside the 18-yard box near center and whipped an incredible shot that would have probably not been stopped by even the best professional goal keeper. Smith seemed to track it and dove on a perfect angle but it was placed too high into the left upper corner of the goal for a 2-0 Bulldog lead a the half.

The second half featured the Bulldogs playing tough defense throughout. But as the Rangers have done all season long, they hustled to every ball, blocked passes, and were able to get across midfield often, but with every moment of entry into the Bulldogs zone, someone for the Bulldogs was there to defend passes and move the ball back into the Rangers defense zone.

Smith continued his sensational play with four more saves until the Bulldogs were awarded a penalty shot inside the 18-yard box which avoided Smith’s save attempt for a 3-0 lead.

The Rangers had one more shot on goal at the 2:05 mark which was saved by the Bulldogs and put an end to an incredible season for the Rangers.

Soccer it is said, is a game of inches. That was proven to be true on Saturday. The goals scored by the Bulldogs were just that, mere inches from being saved. They were not goals scored into open nets, or due to the Rangers being out of position, they were just well struck shots.

For Park High seniors, Brandon Smith, Nik Pierson, Gio Page, Colter Edwards and Simon Bishop, their Park High soccer careers ended one game short of their season long goals. But no doubt they will take great memories of this amazing run into the semifinals. This was a team built on speed and athleticism. They all played as a team, and on Saturday they lost as a team. They all deserve recognition for their achievement on the soccer field this season. And Coach Dickerson can be very proud of the team’s year-long efforts.