It happened again.
For the fourth consecutive year, it was an Eastern sweep at the Shodair Soccer Classic.
In the girls' game, played on a sunny Saturday at Carroll College’s Nelson Stadium, the East possessed well, showed crisp passing and generated multiple quality scoring chances. All that added up to a 3-0 shutout.
In the boys' game, though, the West controlled much of the action, particularly in the second half. Still, the all-stars from the other half of the state made their two best scoring opportunities count and then turned to their defense, holding on for a 2-1 decision.
“We had our opportunities,” said the West’s Colin Patterson, from Helena Capital High. “I think we definitely had a really good offense, but their defense was very dominant. They knew what they were doing. I think once they got up, their coach probably told them in their second-half speech, ‘Just pack the box.’”
The East boys did, indeed, collapse into their defensive zone in the second half, time and time again foiling a potential scoring chance or breathing a sigh of relief when a West shot went just high or wide.
They were able to do so because of a pair of first-half goals.
In a physical, back-and-forth start, the East got on the board first when Billings Skyview’s DC Chelgren took a feed at point-blank range and quickly knocked it in with 29:09 to play in the half.
The West kept pressing, though, and the pressure finally paid off late thanks to a hometown connection.
With less than five minutes to play before the horn, Helena High’s Trent Treadway found Capital’s Patterson who sent it home. The excitement of a tie game was short lived however.
Just 17 seconds later, Billings Senior’s Blake Chase took a pinpoint pass from fellow Bronc Ethan Brown right in front of the net. Chase wasted no time, rifling it home to put the East back on top, 2-1.
And that’s where it stayed.
Winning the MVP was the East’s Connor Hutchinson, from Billings Senior.
The large trophy in-hand, he repeatedly glanced down at his hand, wearing an excited grin.
“I didn’t expect something like that,” he said. “I was just trying to do what I do, I guess. I needed it all to end on something good, so this feels amazing.
“Coming in, I definitely felt like we were the underdogs. But I just played how I play and this team was amazing. We just had to defend and keep the mindset that, ‘They’re not gonna get by us.’ And they didn’t in the second half. Which … that’s really amazing.”
Both Hutchinson and Patterson praised their respective team’s chemistry, as did CMR grad Emerson McLaughlin after the girls game.
“It was awesome … just the atmosphere and all the people that came," McLaughlin said. "High school is so much fun, but we don’t get a lot of supporters at home. We get the important ones, obviously, but soccer’s just not huge, I guess, in Montana yet. But seeing all these people here, it was so fun playing in front of them.”
Making things a bit more fun for the future University of Great Falls player, her team earned a shutout win with her scoring the final goal, helping her earn the game’s MVP trophy and an accompanying $1,000 scholarship.
“It is a really good day, yeah,” she said, laughing. “It’s crazy. They were talking to us over there, and I was like, ‘I don’t every cry of happiness!’That’s the first time I think I’ve ever cried of happiness before. It’s the most amazing feeling I’ve ever felt. Besides the state championship -- that was pretty good, too. But this is tied.”
The West’s Aryn Cummings, from Capital, kept her team in it, making multiple saves throughout the first half. Her offense, while getting a handful of chances, couldn’t generate anything against a stout East defense.
Finally, in the final seconds of the first half, the East solved the Bruins’ keeper. After she initially leaped to keep out a long attempt at the top corner, the ball fell to her right and at the feet of Billings Central’s Julianna Arellano. Two steps behind her defender, Arellano had simply to tap it in for a 1-0 East lead.
It took just 39 seconds of the second half for the East to make it 2-0, Sydney Rollison of Bozeman deflecting a feed from Billings West’s Lauren Cornwall in close, the bouncing shot sneaking in.
The West offense began to show some push after the second goal, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
A 2-0 lead is always dangerous in soccer, but the game was all but salted away in the 54th minute. After an initial shot rang off the under side of the crossbar, McLaughlin battled for possession and fired in a rebound to make it 3-0.
East teammate Rachel Quade from Billings Skyview -- the other future Carroll Saint -- said ending her prep career with a win was special.
And having it come at Nelson, where she will continue her soccer career, made it even better.
“I was coming into it, thinking, ‘Wow, this is where I’m going to be in just a few weeks.’ It’s super exciting to be here today,” she said. “It is a really nice field -- way better than fields I’ve played on before. So it is super exciting, and being able to get a feeling for playing on it was super cool.”