Ethan Nonthaveth scores the second Kentwood goal for the Conks in a minute against Mount Rainier. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Ethan Nonthaveth scores the second Kentwood goal for the Conks in a minute against Mount Rainier. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Tale of two halves for Kentwood boys soccer

Kentwood led 3-0 at halftime, but ends with 3-3 draw against Mount Rainier.

People fall in love with the sport of soccer for many reasons — the fluidity of the game like a jazz ballad, or a player’s unbelievable technical skill. Then there is the elation and heartbreak of the game result itself.

All three of those aspects came out in the Kentwood High School’s 3-3 draw against Mount Rainier at Kentwood on April 23.

“These are the games that you want to play. Go up three, down three, tie set. Maybe we see them again, that is our hope,” Head Coach Scott Gibb said.

The NPSL Standings on the 3A side are incredibly close, and on the 4A side, the standings are even more ridiculous. Both sides. leaving with one point, might have equally hurt their chance at a league title. Tahoma’s 1-0 win over Federal Way on April 23 shot them to the top of the standings with 28 points. Kennedy (27), Kentwood (26), Mount Rainier (25) follow closely behind.

Coach Gibb described the game against Mount Rainier akin to the Charles Dickens novel, “A Tale of Two Cities.” But in this case, a tale of two halves: “It’s not about who is the best team. It’s about who has the best moments and collectively having the most best moments.”

In the first half, Kentwood survived an early initial push from Mount Rainier. The Rams had two shots hit off the post and an impressive save was required from Malik McIntyre, whose game was just getting started.

Once the Conquerors weathered that storm, they made some incredible strides with the ball at their feet. Against the rhythm of play, Kentwood was awarded a corner, Seth Thomas whipped a ball into the penalty area and Manny Nzongani headed the ball home in the 33rd minute.

That initial goal shocked the Rams a bit because less than a minute later, Baigeh Tucker sent a beauty of a ball over the top, and Ethan Nonthaveth controlled the ball with his first touch and beat the keeper with his second, giving Kentwood a 2-0 lead.

From that point forward, the Conks really controlled the ball and the game for the rest of the half. A big part of that was the play of Jonas Loyola. From an outsider’s perspective. he might not have the stats on the surface level with assists or goals. But he was integral to the Conks finding some success late in the second half with his skill on the ball and vision of the field.

“He is very task minded and creative on the ball. The piece I would like to add is the voice like Seth Thomas. If he can then use that voice and with his dicey movement, we link our back to mid and front lines,” Gibb said.

There was some positive play put the ball at the feet of Dylan Hasting in the final minute of the first half. With one shimmy and a touch with the outside of his right foot, he created enough space for a smashing finish and a blistering shot into the roof of the net.

That was all the celebrating Kentwood would do in this game. Heading into halftime with a 3-0 lead, the game seemed to be secure. But Mount Rainier came out with a vengeance in the back end of this game, determined to go down with a fight.

In the second minute of the second half, Preston Salisbury scored the first of three unbelievable goals for Mount Rainier. He sent a banger into the top right corner of the net, and McIntyre had no chance to save it — it was just that good of a shot.

Kentwood’s defense was about to crack and crumble under the utter assault from the Rams in the second half.

In the 54th minute the Rams found another goal out of nothing. A deflected pass shot the ball straight up into the air around 25 yards out from goal. Angel Chavez-Figueroa hit the ball on the volley, and top-spun his shot into the top left corner for an incredibly impressive finish.

“You cannot be upset, good for the kid. But you feel bad for the keeper,” Gibb said about Mount Rainier’s goals.

But still, Kentwood had built a 3-0 lead and trailed 3-2 with around 25 minutes to go. Then with five minutes remaining, the emotional roller coaster continued. Malik McIntyre fouled Harrison Emert inside the penalty area for a penalty kick. McIntyre saved the penalty with a remarkable leaping effort, and the ball went up in the air and hit the cross bar before going out of bounds.

“I keep telling him you have to own your house. Physically be the biggest presence out there, an enigma. He’s still learning. I’m thankful he wants to put himself in front of that little target,” Gibb said.

With the ball in the air, Emert rushed McIntyre and shoved him into the goal. No cards came out, but Kentwood’s players did not take kindly to that.

“This is a band of brothers. They’re a family… These are the games that you want to see what their worth is for themselves and their brothers,” said Gibb.

The dramatics were not finished there either. On essentially the last kick of the game, Marcus Reid tied the game on a goal that you see usually in the premier league. He sent a rocket into the top left corner, giving McIntyre no shot to save again, putting the game at 3-3.

“Taking nothing away, those were awesome shots. But I take it the other way, you don’t get those shots if you’re defending the right way… Those shots were bangers,” Gibb said.

Kentwood has Decatur (April 26) and Kennedy (April 30) left on the calendar, needing really all six points for a district title chance. These are the games that players and coaches live for, Gibb said: “These are what you play for as a player and as a coach because you can see where that growth is for the boys. We own our destiny.”

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Caiden Dodd is in disbelief after Mount Rainier scores the game tying goal at the death. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Caiden Dodd is in disbelief after Mount Rainier scores the game tying goal at the death. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Manny Nzongani (left), Ethan Nonthaveth (middle) and Gabe Woodward (right) celebrate the first goal of the game. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Manny Nzongani (left), Ethan Nonthaveth (middle) and Gabe Woodward (right) celebrate the first goal of the game. Ben Ray / The Reporter

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