PUYALLUP — This was quite the breakthrough for Skyview boys soccer.
Winning the first state playoff game in school history was nice. Winning three more made the 2012 season spectacular.
"This is amazing," senior defender Cole Howard said in the aftermath of Saturday's triumph, a 3-2 win over Central Kitsap of Silverdale that earned the Storm the Class 4A state championship. "We came out with heart, and we got it done."
Skyview got it done by taking the game to Central Kitsap in the first half at Sparks Stadium.
"We started making teams play our game," Skyview coach Jenn Johnson said, explaining how her team found its stride during a five-game playoff run to the title. "We didn't go in and adapt to the way other teams were playing, we made them adapt to us. That's a huge reason why we were successful."
Carter Johnson scored goals in the 17th and 22 minutes to give the Storm an early 2-0 lead. Central Kitsap climbed within one on a 33-yard free kick from Miles Rodriguez-Nilsen, but Skyview answered with an unlikely goal.
Austin Horner scored it with a flick header from about 10 yards out off a free kick by Cole Howard that traveled 60 yards to reach Horner.
It was a play that has been effective all season, Horner said.
"Cole places them perfectly at the far post every time," Horner said. "He makes it easy for our forwards. All you have to do is put a foot or a head on it."
For a while on Saturday, everything seemed to come easy for the Storm.
Skyview jumped ahead 1-0 in the 17th minute when Johnson scored in close after taking possession from a Central Kitsap defender six yards from the goal.
"I knew the defender was going to wait for the bounce to come to him so I thought if I could get there first I could get the ball," Johnson said. "I got it to my chest, saw the goalie wasn't ready for it and just launched one far post."
Johnson's second goal five minutes later was a diving finish off a cross from Horner, who made a run down the right wing and sent the ball into the penalty area.
"That was a beautiful ball from Austin," Johnson said. "I saw the ball coming in, cut in front of the defender. I didn't think I could get to it, but I got the diving header and went far post."
Skyview (16-4) was the first Vancouver team to win a big school boys soccer title since 1993, when Mountain View won the last of three consecutive championships. This was the first trip to the final four for the Storm, and the first time since 2001 that a 4A Greater St. Helens League boys soccer team reached the state semifinals.
It was the first time since 1999, when Evergreen lost to Pasco, that a big school from Vancouver played in the 4A state title match.
Central Kitsap (17-1-2) had surrendered more than one goal only once all season before Saturday, And the second-ranked Cougars showed plenty of fight after falling into an unfamiliar hole, dominating possession throughout the second half and keeping the Storm in their defensive third.
"The second half was crazy," Skyview midfielder Matt Fleischauer said. "It was very physical. It came down to will power. That last 15 minutes was a struggle. Everyone was tired."
Central Kitsap made sure the final 15 minutes were dramatic when Jordan Kollars broke free and scored in the 65th minute.
But Skyview goalie Evan Laws made five of his six saves in the second half and also several significant plays to keep his team in the lead, from punching away long balls from the goal mouth to smothering a couple of distance shots. After earning no corner kicks in the first half, Central Kitsap had six in the second half
"It seemed like forever, like hours out there," Howard said, describing the final 15 minutes.
But as the pressure mounted, Laws stood strong around the goal and the Storm found enough energy to keep the Cougars from breaking through.
SKYVIEW 3, CENTRAL KITSAP 2
Goals (assists) — Carter Johnson (unassisted) 17th minute; Johnson (Austin Horner), 22nd minute; Horner (Cole Howard) 33rd minute. Goalkeeper saves — Evan Laws 6.
Central Kitsap (17-0-2)
Goals (assists) — Miles Rodriguez-Nilsen, 30th minute; Jordan Kollars, 65th. Goalkeeper saves — Jordan Berkley 2.
Halftime — Skyview 3-1.