Two weeks ago we saw the battle of the regular season in Class A soccer up in Whitefish, a potential state title game preview.
Whitefish was undefeated. Stevensville was undefeated. The spectators were salivating.
But this big juicy steak turned out to be a little tough once you got into it. Stevensville scored four times in the second half to run away with a 5-2 match, the first loss for the Bulldogs in 33 matches.
After the match, long-time Stevensville coach Ralph Serette told the Missoulian that his side hadn’t had a victory over Whitefish in about seven years. Turns out he shorted himself a little on the accomplishment. It hasn’t happened since the 1999 season.
“When we beat Whitefish, he was in shock for quite a few days afterward that he had finally beat Whitefish. He was really, really happy about that,” Stevensville player Chance Coleman said.
Back in 1999, when Stevi last took down Whitefish in a 2-1 final, Montana soccer was still crawling out of its infancy stages and into adolescence. There was no high school soccer until 1991-92. There wasn’t even a two-classification system by the turn of the millennium like there is today either. AA and A schools competed all together in one mish-mashed state tournament.
But Whitefish was good even then, the tiny town and school competing right along with the big boys in Billings, Missoula, Helena and Kalispell. The Bulldogs finished runner-up to Helena Capital in 1997’s state title game and would appear in the first State A game in 2001 as well.
Whitefish won its first championship the next season and has five overall, including wins in 2011 and 2012.
But Stevensville is ready to give them a fight this year. The Yellowjackets are undefeated for the first time in school history at 11-0-1 and are rolling into the state bracket with the Southern A championship in tow.
The Jackets will have the No. 1 seed in the eight-team field when play opens up Saturday. Whitefish has the No. 2.
With two wins by each club, we could see a second crucial clash. This one won’t be the game of the season, though, but the game of the post-season.