RICHLAND - If the Sunnyside High School boys soccer team went into Saturday's game at Hanford with the goal of finishing third in the Mid-Valley League, then the Grizzlies accomplished what they set out to do.
In a game where the Grizzlies had the opportunity to battle Hanford with the hopes of still being able to finish second in the league standings, Sunnyside did anything but rise to the challenge.
The Grizzlies looked simply flat in their 3-1 loss to Hanford, which barring any unforeseen losses by the league leaders in the last week of the regular season ensures the Falcons and West Valley the top two spots in the league standings.
In defense of the Grizzlies, Sunnyside's hectic schedule over the last week, which included a two-and-a-half hour war against the Rams the previous week and a road trip to Connell, could have played into their less than energetic performance on Saturday.
"We didn't play with intensity for the match," said Sunnyside Coach Juan Pineda. "They took advantage of that."
The day was a less than spectacular outing for the Grizzlies, as sophomore keeper Sam Wise made poor decisions in the box and the usually sure-footed reigning Mid-Valley League player of the year Junior Garcia hardly resembled his usual dominating presence. In fact, the only player who really had a good day was Miguel Galvan.
The Falcons got on the board first when Kyle Pierce scooted a shot in at the 19th minute off an assist from Nate Dowiak.
The Grizzlies looked as if they were going to make the game interesting, as Sunnyside responded immediately. Garcia broke loose on a 50-yard run off a pass delivered by Galvan to score at the 21st minute.
"Junior just beat them on the run," said Pineda.
The Falcons, though, weren't about to fold. Hanford's Mirza Gusic scored at the 26th minute from a feed by teammate Dustin Whaelan.
Sunnyside missed a golden opportunity to score when Garcia blew a penalty kick, sending the shot wide in the second half.
The Falcons' insurance goal came at the 31st minute of the second half when Alex Alexarhos drilled a shot in the net.
Hanford out shot Sunnyside 12 to 7 on goal. Wise finished with nine saves while Hanford's Drew Curry, who played an exceptional game, had six saves.
"We struggled a lot to get control of the midfield," said Pineda. "They were putting a lot of pressure on us."
Pineda said Hanford attacked a lot on offense, bring four midfielders and two forwards.
Pineda said he was happy with the way the Grizzlies responded to the Falcons' first goal.
Because of players struggling, Pineda had to make a lot of substitutions in the game.
The Grizzly coach, though, was quick to not take anything away from Hanford. Before Saturday, the Falcons had lost three consecutive times to Sunnyside on their home field.
"I think Hanford has got a lot stronger," said Pineda. "I am impressed with how disciplined they are."
Pineda said his team is going through a bit of a tumultuous period right now, as they are struggling to find the form that dominated other teams earlier in the season.
"We need to grow more as a team," said Pineda. "We just need to get better. I have confidence that we will do that. I know we will bounce back."
The Grizzlies (6-4, 10-4) will get a couple of days of needed rest before hosting Selah this coming Thursday night. It will be the final home game of the regular season for Sunnyside.