Washington High School’s Evan Wimberly redirects the ball with a header Tuesday to score on Catholic High School goal keeper Tanner Kukes. Washington beat Catholics 3-1.
Though it can be difficult, teams can greatly benefit from stepping outside of their comfort zone.
And though the District 1-2A Catholic Crusaders (15-3-2) suffered their second loss of the season to the higher-classified Washington Wildcats (1-3A) after a 3-1 loss Tuesday night, there were plenty of positive takeaways for coach Del Greatwood and the Crusaders on their senior night.
“I think we’ve got high hopes for districts,” Greatwood said. “With 89 total goals, we are one of the highest scoring teams in the state in class 2A. We will take it one game at a time from here.”
While the Crusaders outscored opponents 89-22, Catholic is now on a two-game losing streak after dropping a contest against Navarre on Monday.
But it has provided more action and more looks for sophomore goalkeeper Tanner Kukes, who has helped produce nine shutouts this season.
“(Kukes) is a phenomenal talent for this area,” Greatwood said. “I think he will just get better and better. If he was playing in Europe, I believe he would already be picked up by a professional club.”
Kukes’ 12 saves certainly stood out as a positive takeaway from the loss for Greatwood.
“He’s a self-star on the pitch,” Greatwood said. “As a sophomore, he is a trusted member of this squad.”
Of course, the win provided plenty of optimism for the Wildcats, who also begin district play next week.
In the first half, Washington possessed the ball in Catholic territory for all but several minutes. Evan Wimberly got it started, scoring off a header in the sixth minute for Washington.
But Kukes was resilient, forcing several tough saves as Chris Searcy and Ben Salveseen continued the strong attack for the Wildcats.
Late in the first half, Searcy made a run down the sideline and found Bennett Gaston in the box, who made a move to hold off two Catholic defenders before he found Salveseen, who put the ball in the back of the net.
Coach Felipe LaWall was pleased.
“I’ve known (Searcy and Gaston) for a long time,” LaWall said. “I coach their club team. They play year round. They know what to do and know what to expect.
“It was good game, Catholic and Washington always have a good rivalry. Having this game late in the season helps us prepare for district play.”
Gaston put himself in the mix of two-of-three Washington goals in the win.
The first goal was an own goal for Catholic, but for the Wildcat’s third goal, it was Gaston’s turn to find the back of the net.
Ben Stevens lobbed a ball to the back post, where Gaston awaited the easy touch and score.
Washington goalkeeper, Nolan Ricketson would have preserved a shutout, if not for a Harrison Carroll goal late in the second half.
LaWall explained how Ricketson had converted from a baseball player to keeper.
“He came in and tried out for keeper, and it worked out,” LaWall said. “He’s been holding his own for his first year. We’ll be hoping for big things from him next year.”
At Catholic High
Washington 3, Catholic 1
Washington — Goals: Evan Wimberly, Bennett Gaston, Ben Salvesteen. Assists: Ben Stevens. Saves: Nolan Ricketson (8).
Catholic (15-3-2) — Goals: Harrison Carroll Saves: Tanner Kukes (12)