Last night's first round 3A State match-up between the Sunnyside Grizzlies and the Kamiakin Braves had all the excitement expected from a high-level playoff game.
It was the fourth meeting between the two teams this season and nearly 500 people packed the Clem Senn Field stands to watch the drama unfold.
Sunnyside held a 2-1 edge in games played this season and was hoping to avoid a split that would have sent the Braves onward and Sunnyside home for the season.
For much of the game both teams battled to a draw, although Sunnyside had the edge in shots on goals.
The Grizzlies had several scoring opportunities in the first half with Brian Galvan, Armando Ortiz and Jesus Solis each sending attempts to Kamiakin's keeper, Dillon Braich.
"Their shots were barely off target or blocked by Kamiakin's keeper," Sunnyside Coach Juan Pineda said. "The gave us a great fight. They were as hungry as we were."
Pineda said the Braves were trying to overwhelm the Grizzlies' defense by sending numbers to attack. Sunnyside's defense swarmed each attack and then quickly counter attacked. The results were several attempts on Kamiakin's goal. The Braves were able to stop each one but the toll started to wear on them.
At halftime Pineda reminded his team of their responsibility and encouraged them to keep up the pressure on Kamiakin. It was this pressure that enabled Sunnyside to get its first goal of the game.
The Grizzlies put the ball into play with a corner kick from the north side of the field. Braich and the Braves were able to clear the ball but Humberto Bermudez found it and sent a shot back at the Kamiakin goal. Braich blocked it but couldn't quite control the ball and Sunnyside's Jordan Esqueda picked it up and put it past the keeper in the 66th minute of play.
"Our goals didn't come easy," Pineda added.
The goal took some pressure off of Sunnyside but created more for the Braves.
In the 72nd minute of play Sunnyside got an insurance goal that effectively gave the Grizzlies the game.
A streaking Esqueda found Galvan in front of the goal and sent him a pass. Galvan beat his defender, then slipped the ball past Braich for a 2-0 Sunnyside lead.
"That was the spark we needed," Pineda said. "Everything came alive for us after that."
Sunnyside kept up a relentless attack for the final eight minutes of play.
Pineda credited the great concentration of his team for the win.
"They know how focused they have to be," he said. "Our position is improving each time. The kids are hungry for it but they're following the plan. That shows we have a strong mentality and we needed that for this game."
Pineda pointed out the support of the community and school staff gave his kids a spark as well.
Sunnyside (16-3) will host Kennedy High School (15-4) this Saturday, May 17, at 1 p.m., at Clem Senn Field in a 3A State quarterfinal matchup.