The seven seniors from the Richland boys soccer team stood outside the locker room at Bomber Field on Friday evening, posing for pictures after the team’s final home game of the year and their last game on their home pitch.
“It helps if you guys pretend to be happy,” a parent joked from the throng of cameras trained at the group.
It was difficult to be happy, especially after taking a 3-1 loss to Roosevelt in the 4A quarterfinals, a loss that ended each player’s high school career.
But pride was a different story. That wasn’t difficult at all.
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“These boys are the greatest I’ve ever played with. Ever,” Richland junior goalkeeper Damian Ruiz said. “We had the best seniors, and because of them we’ll always hold our chins high.”
The Bombers took a 1-0 lead just nine minutes into the game when Jonathan Larsen took a pass from fellow senior Austin Herrick just outside the 8-yard box and shot it past Riders’ goalie Julien Leveque.
But Roosevelt forward Danny South picked a good time for his first hat trick of the season, scoring the next three goals to send the Riders to the 4A semifinals for the fourth time in school history and first time since 2005.
“A lot of it was right place, right time, but Eric (Conte) gave me a nice header for that first goal,” South said. “We had a long trip out here, and I knew we just needed to get our legs under us.”
Richland looked like a team on a mission in the first 15 minutes, creating six quality chances. Although only one went in, the Bombers looked as though they were going to keep their foot on the gas on all day.
They outshot Roosevelt 23-12 on the day.
“When we beat the top seed Stadium 3-0 in the first round, that might have made us a little overconfident,” Herrick said. “Roosevelt came in ready to play.”
The Riders evened things up in the 16th minute after defender Zach Riley sent the ball in from the left wing toward a couple of onrushing teammates. Conte got to it first, heading it toward the left side of the box, where South was there to bang it past Ruiz to make it 1-1.
“We gave them that one goal, and that rocked our focus,” Richland coach Octavio DoValle said. “We went into halftime and talked about it.
“But they talked better.”
Roosevelt got the upper hand in the second minute of the second half after Charlie Spurr beat a defender and dribbled up the endline, then fed Shane Gomez for a shot on goal. Ruiz made the save, but the rebound trickled to South, who pounded it into the net for a 2-1 lead.
Four minutes later, it was a similar story. Gomez dropped a corner kick in front of the net, where it bounced around before South knocked it home for his third goal of the game.
“Every goal could have been prevented, but I don’t want to take anything away from (Roosevelt). The better team won today,” Bombers senior defender Nico Reyes said. “The challenge is for next year’s team to come as far as we did.”
Richland hadn’t been to the semifinals since 2003, when the program won its first and only state championship in DoValle’s 22 seasons as coach.
“We had bigger goals. Unfortunately, a good team came in and got us when we weren’t playing our best,” DoValle said. “We made too many mistakes.”
This team may have lacked a bit of the magic of the 2003 team, which got some big breaks to go along with some clutch play, but it certainly didn’t lack the heart of a championship club.
“We made some adjustments and fought until the last minute. You have to be proud of that,” DoValle said. “We gave them three goals, but we didn’t surrender.”
Roosevelt will face today’s winner between Ferris, the top seed from the Greater Spokane League, and Union in the 4A semifinals Friday at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
“We had a hard time early in the season, losing five in a row, but I always knew we had the talent to get here,” South said.
Scoring—1, Rich, Jonathan Larsen (Austin Herrick), 9:00; 2, Roos, Danny South (Eric Conte), 16:00; 3, Roos, South, 42:00; 4, Roos, South, 46:00. Shots—Roos 12, Rich 23. Saves—Roos, Julien Leveque 8. Rich, Damian Ruiz 4.