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Streak is over, but Bulldogs expect success to continue

by WHITNEY ENGLAND
Whitefish Pilot | September 21, 2022 1:00 AM

It came down to the final four minutes, a frenzy in front of the Whitefish goal and a header by Wildcat captain Kai Golan that sailed just past the reach of Bulldog keeper Ethan Schott — the Columbia Falls Wildcats had finally come out on top over rival Whitefish.

The go-ahead score came in the 76th minute and the Bulldogs couldn’t match it before the final whistle blew. Columbia Falls defeated Whitefish 2-1 at Smith Fields on a smoky Thursday evening.

“I thought it was a great game,” Whitefish head coach John Lacey said. “Both teams played super hard, we’re grateful because I know the test is going to make us better. Hadn’t had a game like that this year, so it was good for all the boys to experience that environment.”

The defeat broke a four-plus year undefeated streak where the Bulldogs recorded over 60 wins with a couple of draws in the mix. Columbia Falls, who has faced Whitefish two years in a row in the State A championship game and lost, celebrated the big win while Whitefish players showed good sportsmanship in congratulating their opponent.

Though the streak is over, Lacey says it isn’t all that concerning for the Dogs — but of course, they did want to win that game.

“The truth is, most of these guys were in middle school when it (the streak) started. They’ve been a part of it, that’s the legacy, we’re really proud of what the program has built…” Lacey said. “But we don’t talk about the streak, we talk about being ready for our time, and preparing for our moment… Don’t get me wrong we wanted to win that game, not because it meant 1/65th of some other streak but because it was the game that we had at that moment and all the games matter to us.”

Wildcat junior Kai Golan was the first to find the back of the net in the game when he sailed a shot passed the Whitefish defense in the 10th minute. Whitefish wasted little time responding and picked up the intensity.

Just before halftime, Whitefish junior Sam Dow scored the game-tying goal on a free kick from just outside of the 18-yard box. That helped the Bulldogs take a 1-1 draw into the break.

In the second half, the play between the two teams was evenly matched with few good scoring opportunities allowed on either side of the ball.

Just when it looked like the teams would have to settle for a tie, Golan scored on a header after Whitefish keeper Schott had his hands on the ball twice but couldn’t keep control of it through the chaos.

After Columbia Falls had the lead, the Wildcats tightened up their defense even more and made it hard for Whitefish to have any other opportunities to score.

CFalls ended up with 12 shots to Whitefish’s seven and Schott made seven saves in the game. The Bulldogs are now 6-1 this season.

“We certainly belonged — we had plenty of chances, there were opportunities that we didn’t finish, there were opportunities that they didn’t finish,” Lacey said. “It was a good high-level soccer game.”

The Bulldogs are a younger team this year with only three seniors in the varsity lineup. Whitefish graduated 10 seniors from last season.

Columbia Falls’ younger players from last season have grown and are leaders, making the match up between the two teams an exciting battle.

Whitefish will face Bigfork this week for Homecoming and then have a rematch with Columbia Falls the following week. Both are important, competitive games for the Bulldogs.

“These two next [games] are big,” Lacey said. “...We’ll be extra hungry for the Columbia Falls game just because its always a good game and we’re excited about the environment they’re going to have over there for us.”

The Bulldogs host Bigfork on Thursday with kickoff at 5 p.m. at Smith Fields.

Columbia Falls 1 1 — 2

Whitefish 1 0 — 1

CF - Kai Golan (Finley Sundberg) 10:00

WF - Sam Dow 39:00

CF - Golan (Sundberg) 76:00

Shots — CF 12, WF 7; Saves — CF 8 (Bryce Dunham), WF 7 (Ethan Schott); Corners — CF 6, WF 3; Fouls CF 15, WF 17; Cards — CF 1 (yellow); WF 1 (yellow)

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Bulldog Rye Duffy cuts around Wildcat Josiah Kilman during a game against Columbia Falls on Thursday. (Whitney England/Whitefish Pilot)

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Sophomore midfielder Elijah Adams-Griffin sprints to the ball on Thursday in Whitefish against Columbia Falls. (JP Edge/Hungry Horse News)

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Junior Adam Healy dibbles the ball on Thursday in Whitefish against Columbia Falls. (JP Edge/Hungry Horse News)

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