Aaron Radford experienced an unusual sort of soccer triple crown last Friday night: a win, a loss, and a tie.
All within a couple hours.
First, the Kentwood High boys soccer team coached by Radford won the South Puget Sound League North Division title before even stepping onto the turf at French Field. Kentlake, one of the Conquerors’ rivals, saw to that by playing to a 2-2 tie with Jefferson, thereby denying the second-place Raiders a chance to catch up with or pass KW.
Then, the Conks closed the regular season by battling to a 0-0 tie against Kentridge, which threw everything it had at Kentwood in an attempt to pull out a victory and keep its own playoff hopes alive.
After that Radford lost.
Lost his hair, that is.
“I made a rather foolish deal with them,” said Radford, who picked Jefferson as the team to beat in the North, but told his players that if they went out and won the title themselves, they could shave his head.
The Conquerors delivered, giving themselves a big boost with a pair of 2-0 victories against TJ during a nine-day span, the second of which came last Wednesday night on the Raiders’ field.
So Radford will have a markedly different look tonight when Kentwood (9-3-2 league, 11-3-2 overall) travels to Bethel High in Graham for the SPSL title game against South Division champion Puyallup (11-1-2 league, 12-1-2 overall).
But while the Conquerors had fun at their coach’s expense, they’ll be all business once they’re back on the field tonight – and back in the postseason for the first time since 2003.
“We kind of mentioned it,” senior defender Spencer Ward said of preseason division title discussions. “But it was one of our goals to make the playoffs because we haven’t made it in five years.”
Added junior midfielder Luke Angevine, a junior midfielder who has four goals on a team where nine players have tallied at least once, “We came together and wanted to be league champions, and we accomplished it. It gives us a lot of confidence going into the playoffs. We’ve been training hard, and we have the right mindset.”
Although Radford rather would have gone in with a win instead of a tie, his feeling is that part of the aforementioned mindset is simply to keep going.
“We had some chances on the goal line (against KR) that I thought we should have converted. But I still think it’s something to build on going into the playoffs.
The Conquerors head into tonight’s showdown against Puyallup having survived what was a rugged final week. They lost at Tahoma by a 2-1 score on April 25, fell to Kentlake last Tuesday, 1-0, to drop into second place, one point behind Jefferson.
But just 24 hours after the loss to the Falcons, Kentwood beat TJ on the Raiders’ field, 2-0, jumping back into first place and regaining the division lead.
“We came off that loss to Tahoma and Kentlake, and it was great to come back and play well and get us back on track,” Ward said. “We just have to stay mentally strong. It’s going to be a whole different game (in the playoffs).”