Long before Matt Potter and Jeff Bennett became head coaches for two of the CBBN’s most prestigious programs, they were well familiar with each other on the pitch.
As a high school senior at Pasco in 1993, Potter anchored the midfield for the Big Nine district champions. One of Potter’s biggest challenges, however, was going up against Bennett, a senior defender at Kamiakin and fellow first-team All-Big Nine selection.
“He’s a tough guy. He was physical and very, very smart,” said Potter, who took over as Pasco boys coach before the 2010 spring season. “I’m still a little scrawny, so he’s a guy I would try to dribble around so I wouldn’t get hurt.”
Bennett had plenty of respect for Potter, his teammate on the Tri-City United club team that won the state cup that same season.
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“He was definitely a huge asset to the team,” said Bennett, who was hired to coach the Braves in 2010. “I use (Potter) as an example to a lot of players on my team. We’re a lot smaller than most teams. He was a smaller player, but he played with a much bigger presence on the field.
“He brings a lot of that experience and mentality to his teams.”
Today at 7 p.m. at Edgar Brown Stadium, the two former teammates and Big Nine adversaries will meet again as coaching contemporaries in the district play-in round of the CBBN/GSL 3A regional playoffs.
Pasco won both regular-season matches, but after winning the first match 3-0, the Bulldogs found the Braves a much tougher matchup two weeks ago in a 1-0 win.
“They’re tough and hard-working, and they defend real well. They have some dangerous players you always have to account for,” Potter said. “They don’t care if they’re a No. 6 seed. We know in our league, any team can win any day.”
That was clear last season, when Kamiakin took down third-seeded Kennewick in a shootout to advance to the regional round.
“We’re in a similar situation as last year. We would have liked to finish with a higher seed, but we’re looking forward to a good matchup,” Bennett said. “We felt we played a good match last time we faced them.”
Pasco has been to state five years in a row and has missed state only three times since 1993. The Bulldogs have made it look easy, but a great deal of mental and physical preparation goes into that rate of success.
“The key is to make sure you’re united as a team and ready to make sacrifices as a team,” Potter said. “Then you’ve got to go in ready to play, but you have to be relaxed at the same time. You can’t be too wound up.”
Potter points to a strong back line as one of the Bulldogs’ biggest advantages.
“We take pride in defending as an 11-man unit. We don’t lead the league in goals, but we’ve defended very well as a unit,” he said.
“But now everything goes back to equal. We need to come out and prove ourselves again.”
West Valley vs. Sunnyside, Chief Kamiakin Middle School, 5 p.m.: The Grizzlies swept the Rams by scores of 4-2 and 3-1 during the regular season. West Valley is led by forward Jesse Esquivel (9 goals), while Sunnyside is led by Javier Contreras (7 goals). The Grizzlies were the only team to beat CBBN 3A champion Eastmont during the regular season.
Selah at Grandview, 6 p.m.: The Vikings have one of the top-scoring forwards in the league in Eliseo Montiel (19 goals), but the Greyhounds worked to create a strong defensive core, which led to Greyhounds highest finish in several seasons.