CALDWELL – History was made on Saturday afternoon as the Snake River Panther soccer squad capped off their monumental run through the 3A State Soccer Championship Tournament with a dominating 5-0 victory over the Redskins of Teton.
“This is just indescribable for me,” Snake River head coach Trevor Peterson said. “To have played for three years as a player for Snake River and then to be fortunate enough to coach these guys and help build this program just leaves me a little speechless.”
On a season in which the Panthers dropped just two games all year, Snake River was simply dominating at the state tournament as they averaged more than five goals per game with 16 state tournament goals.
Of particular note is the fact that of those 16 goals, 14 of them were scored in the second half.
“Yea, we were able to score a lot of goals but it really did all start with the defensive effort and worked forward from that,” Coach Peterson said. “There wasn’t a single kid that didn’t put forth a sizeable effort for this championship and I am so proud of each and every one of them.”
“As far as scoring all of those goals in the second half, I just think that it was a question of them getting into the groove,” Coach Peterson continued. “It’s kind of been our niche all year though and this tournament turned out to be that way also.”
On Saturday, the Panthers looked as if they had taken a first half lead when Andy Garcia emerged from a big scrum of players in front of the Teton goal and punched a shot past the Teton goal keeper in the twenty-ninth minute. That shot was disallowed however as the side line referee raised his flag in the air to signal off sides and as the two teams headed to the bench for half time, the score stood deadlocked at 0-0.
“Teton knows us pretty well from the first two times that we played each other, and it took a little bit of time to see how they were going to play us,” Garcia said. “Coach told us at the half to come out a work a little harder and to not give up and really encouraged us. We came out in the second half and just kept attacking them.”
The constant pressure eventually paid off for the Panthers as Garcia took a pass from Cooper Peterson just inside the eighteen line. A quick blast from Garcia’s talented right foot put the Panthers on the board at 1-0 in the fifty-first minute of play.
Four minutes later Garcia headed in a perfectly placed corner kick from Michael Smith and the rout was on as Snake River led 2-0.
“I remember my brother playing on the 2006 team that finished third at state and I wanted to at least get that and I really wanted to bring home a championship,” Garcia said. “This was our chance and we just wanted to make it count.”
Twelve minutes later the Panthers erased any doubt of a Teton comeback when Garcia returned the favor with an assist to Peterson for a goal and a 3-0 lead.
Garcia wasn’t done distributing however as he later was credited with an assist when he placed a ball in front of the Teton net and senior Luis Atriano headed in the pass for a goal and the 4-0 lead.
Late in the game, Garcia put the finishing touches on his hat trick as he kicked in his third goal of the day as Snake River and their fans celebrated their first ever state championship in boys soccer.
“I’ve been around and watched these guys since they were little kids,” Coach Peterson said. “It’s something that is so special and I know that I will never forget it and it’s something that they can all be very proud of.”
Something else that the Panthers can be proud of is the fact that in addition to bringing home the blue trophy, they will also be placing a state sportsmanship trophy in their case for their exemplary behavior both on the field and in the stands.
Snake River finished with a 15-2-2 record on the season.