POCATELLO — As the final seconds ticked down in Saturday’s winner-to-state game between the Blackfoot Lady Broncos and Preston, the Blackfoot faithful that made the trip down to Century High School began to stir with excitement as there were just mere seconds separating Blackfoot form an appearance in next week’s state soccer tournament.
The Preston fans were string too, but this was in disapointment as the No. 2 seed in there District 5/6 tournament was about to handed its second 1-0 loss of the tournament by the lady Broncos.
As the final whistle sounded the Broncos players ran towards midfield in celebration as the Indians walked off the field in tears of disappointment as for the first time in 10 years the Lady Broncos will be making an appearance in the 4A state tournament after their 1-0 win over Preston.
“These girls are awesome, there is no better feeling than this,” Blackfoot head coach Alisha Yeates said. “It would have been easier for us to get to state after winning the first game, but maybe the extra game was good for us.”In the first meeting between the two schools on Tuesday, the Indians did their best to try and contain the Lady Broncos dangerous forward Cassandra Clarke by surrounding her with three and four defenders.
But after she beat those defenders for the deciding goal, the Indians needed to devise another plan.
And it was simple, put even more players around her. The plan worked as Clarke was bottled up until late in the game, but it also freed up other players to make plays and send shots on goal.
While Clarke was involved in the play on the lone goal scored, it was an athletic play my Maria Labra was sealed the deal.
In the 20th minute Clarke made a run towards the Preston net, but as her shot left her foot it was deflected by a Preston defender and the ball bounced around inside the goal box.
A charging Labra found the ball on a hop and sent it into the net to give the Lady Broncos the lead.
Getting the goal took a lot of pressure off of the offense for the rest of the game, but the goal was a result of a lot of familiarity with their opponent.
The Lady Broncos lost both meeting to Preston in the regular season, but made up for in the district tournament with two big wins.
“We got ourselves familiar with their team and how they play,” Yeates said. “We learned how the players play and we practiced that, we did a lot of whiteboard talk and talked a lot about our conditioning, but we got it done and are ready for state.”
With the one goal lead the Lady Broncos defense would be leaned on heavily to stop the aggressive Indians forwards.
While the Indians were able to get their fair share of runs towards the Blackfoot goal, led by senior Angela Garza and goalie Madison Leslie the Broncos back line of defense was up to the task.
Leslie stopped each and every shot taken in her direction, while Garza, Matti Chavez and a host of others did the tough job of clearing balls out of the Broncos end of the field.
“Angela Garza controlled the back of the field for us,” Yeates said. “She is new to our team this year, but she is amazing. She has the skill and the speed to make all the plays, we are lucky to have that senior, but out whole defensive line was awesome.”
The Blackfoot defense did not allow Preston a good scoring opportunity until very late in the second half and that shot was saved by Leslie.
A whirlwind for season as head coach for Yeates has led to the first appearance in the state tournament since 2003. And while both coach and team are excited to face some of Idaho’s best, they know a lot of hard work remains.
“I am excited to get the team back to state,” Yeates said. “I look forward to being challenged I also am looking forward to seeing Century again. We gave one of the top teams in the state all they could handle and I really want to see them again.”
It will be tough for the Broncos and Diamondbacks to meet again as each team is one opposite end of the tournament bracket.
But if the Broncos make either the championship, third place or consolation game their opponent could very well be the Diamondbacks.
Blackfoot also dodges another bullet as defending state champion Bishop Kelly is on the other side of the bracket.
Joining the Broncos on their half of the draw is Twin Falls and Middleton along with Sandpoint.
Blackfoot takes on Sandpoint on Thursday at 11 a.m. at Brothers Park in Caldwell.