The Salida High School boys’ soccer team is moving on. The Spartans advanced to the quarterfinals of the Class 3A state playoffs with a 2-1 victory over The Academy Tuesday at home.
“Overall I’m just pleased,” Salida head coach Ben Oswald said. “We had a good match defensively; our back line was outstanding again.”
Senior Nico Wilson, senior Colby Pitts, sophomore Caden Pitts and junior Max Ferguson did a good job limiting The Academy’s opportunities in the game. When The Academy did get by them, sophomore goalie Quinn Phillips was there to make the save.
“I can’t say enough about our keeper,” Oswald said. “Generally speaking he’ll make one to three massive saves a game, and those are the game differences every single time.”
Salida’s offense scored once in both halves and built a 2-0 lead.
Senior captain Cole Walters-Schaler had a hard shot saved and then created a one-timer opportunity. Walters-Schaler kept attacking and found the back of the net in the 20th minute. Caden Pitts played a long ball to Walters-Schaler, who got behind the defense, and right before the defender caught up to him, he fired a cross-shot by the goalie to put Salida up 1-0.
“It got us going,” senior captain Quinn Bosanko said about the goal. “It was nice to go into halftime with a lead. We could have sat back, but we kept fighting for more goals.”
Salida started shooting as soon as the second half started with Caden Pitts putting a shot on goal from about 40 yards out. Two minutes later, sophomore Riggs Gorby tried to head the ball in but got kicked in the face in the process.
The Academy responded with one of its best chances. After a pass rolled through the goal, Phillips rushed back and blocked a hard shot.
In the 55th minute, Salida added to its lead. Walters-Schaler got behind the defense again, but The Academy’s goalie ran out and blocked his shot with a slide tackle. The rebound bounced free, however, and junior Jake Kunst finished the play with a boot into the goal.
Oswald named Kunst the “man of the match” for scoring what turned out to be the game-winning goal. “He had the calmness to put it in,” the coach said. “We had some other simple chances we weren’t so calm on. He’s always in the right place at the right time.”
The coach also gave kudos to Bosanko for stepping up physically and to sophomore Arlo Follet for always battling.
With three minutes left in the game, The Academy scored on a penalty kick to cut Salida’s lead in half.
“I’m very disappointed with the penalty,” Oswald said. “There’s no reason to give that up, especially at that point in the game.”
The Spartans, however, were able to finish the contest strong to advance.
“I thought we played pretty great,” Bosanko said. “We made some little technical errors, but we clean those up and keep going.”
“Every kid did his job,” Oswald said. “This time of the year, that’s exactly what we need.”
Spartan fans also filled the bleachers for the game, which the players appreciated. “They helped so much,” Bosanko said. “The last five minutes they were perfect and helped us grind out the win.”
After the game the team also sang “Happy Birthday” to their injured senior captain Bowman Russell, who has found ways to help the team off of the pitch.
The top-seeded Spartans will now host the quarterfinals at 1 p.m. Saturday at SHS.
Salida will play No. 8 Faith Christian, who beat No. 9 Arrupe Jesuit in its second-round contest.
“This was one more step in the process,” Bosanko said. “We’re looking forward to all of the fans coming back and performing even better than we did tonight.”