When it comes to motivational tools, redemption is at the top of the list for any team in any sport. The Kennewick Lions redeemed one heartbreaking loss Tuesday at Lampson Stadium, defeating the Hanford Falcons 1-0 in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
The win erased the memory of last year’s quarterfinal loss on the same field against the same team.
“We wanted to get revenge on them after last year. That’s how we came in with our mentality,” Kennewick senior defender Daniel Uribe said. “Now, hopefully we’ll get a chance to play for the state title.”
Now, with Sunnyside looming as their quarterfinal opponent, the Lions are in a position to get even more payback for a 3-2 shootout loss to the Grizzlies in last Saturday’s District 5/8 regional championship game.
Kennewick (14-6) will travel to Sunnyside (17-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday for the right to represent the east side in the Class 3A semifinals at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup. Neither team has ever been that far in the state playoffs, but one of them will realize its dream this weekend.
“(Today) was like the championship between the best two teams in Tri-Cities,” Kennewick senior forward Ramiro Chavez said after scoring the only goal of the match in the 39th minute. “(Sunnyside) can be like another final for us. It would be the first time for our school to go to the Final Four. That would be like the best thing ever.”
If was the third time Kennewick had beaten Hanford in four matchups this season, including 2-0 in the postseason. The Lions, who watched the Falcons supplant them as Mid-Columbia Conference league champions this year, have been looking for a way to prove to the rest of the state that their 54 wins and three state appearances over the last four seasons aren’t a fluke.
“It’s just a shame that a team like Hanford and a team like Kennewick have to meet in the first round,” Lions coach Brian Gochoel said. “I was surprised we were able to keep Hanford off the board.”
The Lions outshot the Falcons 9-4 in the first half, getting the better of possession and putting lots of pressure on Hanford’s back third.
“They beat us in the first half. We didn’t start as hard as we should have,” said Mario Zarate, Hanford’s two-time all-MCC midfielder. “You could tell (Kennewick) really wanted this game.”
The Falcons tried to regroup at the half but still couldn’t find the magic combination that lifted them to a win here last season.
“Unfortunately, we ran out of time. We tried to push up numbers in the final 20 minutes, and we started getting some opportunities. We just ran out of gas,” Hanford coach Mike Pardini said. “It’s difficult to come back from a goal down. We did it last year, but it takes something special to do that.”
Chavez picked up his 24th goal of the year just before the end of the first half after Kennewick made a late push. Falcons goalkeeper Jacob Thiel stopped one shot, but the rebound bounced out to Lions midfielder Federico Villasenor about 10 yards away on the right side of the goal.
Villasenor, a Southridge transfer in his first year at Kennewick, found the MCC’s top scorer on a run to the far post. “I almost ended up shooting it, but I didn’t want it to bounce back out,” Villasenor said. “I saw someone running to the left, and I just tapped it over there.”
Chavez, who led Kennewick in goals for the last two seasons, did the rest.
“I wasn’t on the line, but it looked like offsides. But we still have to play through the whistle,” Pardini said.” It’s unfortunate to go out on a goal like that. It was kind of a soft goal, but all congratulations to Kennewick. I hope they represent our league.”
Chavez sat out most of the second half after rolling his right ankle in the 52nd minute. Chavez said he “heard a pop” after sending a pass from the left wing, but he believes it won’t be a problem on Saturday.
Kennewick goalkeeper Henry Hernandez made two saves for his fifth shutout of the season. Scoring—1, K, Ramiro Chavez (Federico Villasenor), 39:00. Shots—H 7, K 15. Saves—H, Jacob Thiel 7. K, Henry Hernandez 2.