Celebrating after scoring a goal isn’t something Skyline senior Emily Stuart said she does a lot.
She made an exception Wednesday night under the lights of the Idaho Falls Soccer Complex when her shot entered the top right corner of the net to put the Grizzlies up 2-0 in the 68th minute. That goal gave the No. 1 seeded Grizz some insurance en route to a 3-0 win over No. 2 seeded Bonneville in the 4A District 6 championship game, and she was as elated as her teammates when the ball went in.
The 1-0 lead had held for 65 minutes, a stretch that Stuart and Skyline head coach Kip Archibald said felt like forever.
“I think that was the most emotional goal I’ve ever scored,” Stuart said. “At halftime, we said if we got a second goal, it would change the momentum. It was such a relief.”
Skyline repeated as 4A District 6 champions with the win and extended an impressive run that goes back three years. The Grizzlies (14-1-0) are undefeated versus District 6 5A and 4A teams not named Madison dating back to Sept. 13, 2016, a streak that reached 41 games with Wednesday’s win.
“I just feel really happy and really thankful to have such great kids come through this program,” Archibald said. “That was a great game. It was hard fought by all means.”
‘Hard fought’ was an accurate assessment of a game that showcased high quality soccer from start to finish. After Teresa Ledezma scored in the third minute to put the Grizzlies up 1-0, both teams hustled to create scoring opportunities. Those opportunities came in bunches, keeping the back lines and goalkeepers busy. The intensity reached another level in the final 10 minutes of the first half as Bonneville took two free kicks, shots by Ledezma and teammate Tasha Miller rolled wide and Skyline took a free kick 30 seconds after making a save.
“We were saying how we were playing like we were scared rather than playing intense,” Stuart said of the Grizzlies’ halftime discussion. “We weren’t pressing. We had to start passing more and moving our feet.”
The momentum from the final 10 minutes of the first half carried into the second half. Neither team slowed down as the 1-0 lead held up, and a would-be equalizer by Bonneville in the 54th minute was called back due to a foul on the Bees in the Skyline box. The Bees followed that up with free kicks in the 56th and the 62nd, the latter of which was snuffed with a diving save that drew applause from Skyline’s bench players.
By the time Stuart scored six minutes later, Skyline’s entire bench was on their feet.
“We knew coming in that (Bonneville) would do a fantastic job,” Archibald said. “Once we got that second goal, it was nice but we knew we couldn’t let up.”
Tasha Miller scored in the 72nd to make it 3-0 Skyline, sliding to the ground and pumping her fists before rising to her feet. Both teams continued to create scoring opportunities until the full time whistles blew, when the Grizzlies spilled out onto the field and into each other’s arms to celebrate their third district title in six seasons.
Bonneville coach Amy Feik had nothing but praise for her team’s efforts, and she particularly commended freshman trio Reagan Flynn, Brooklyn Pett and Ali Ellsworth.
“Those three carried our team,” Feik said. “They knew how bad our seniors wanted it. I think if we could’ve held it to 1-0 a little longer, we could’ve gotten an equalizer. The second goal put a damper on us and the third one kinda sealed the deal.”
Skyline begins the 4A state tournament one week from today with an 11 a.m. match at Brothers Park in Caldwell versus the winner of Saturday’s state play-in game between District 4-5 third place team Preston and District 3’s third place team. The Grizzlies reached the winner’s bracket for the first time in 12 years last season before falling to Twin Falls in penalty kicks in the third place game.
“I think we’re more motivated to go farther than we did last year,” Stuart said. “We’ve talked about making it to the final.”
Bonneville (11-7-0) hosts No. 3 seeded Idaho Falls on Saturday for their second meeting within a week, this time in a winner-to-state, loser-out district tournament game. After splitting regular season meetings, Bonneville won last weekend’s semifinal 2-0.
“We’ve had a goal of state for the five years I’ve been here and the last three years, we’ve come up short by one game,” Feik said. “We are a completely different team than we were last year.”