BIGFORK – Reed Sandstrom scored a late goal off a corner kick to propel Columbia Falls to a 2-1 Northern A victory over Bigfork on Thursday and secure a spot in the Northern A soccer play-in game.
The Wildcats (5-7 overall, 4-4 league) began the scoring in the 30th minute on a breakway goal by senior John Gilk. Sophomore Niels Getts was credited for the assist.
But the Vikings (2-10, 2-6) struck back in the 50th minute with a goal from junior Baltazar Alcaraz, tying the game at one goal apiece.
Columbia Falls coach O’Brien Byrd said he pressed the Wildcats forward despite leaving the team vulnerable to the counter attack.
“We had to take some risks to create more chances,” he said.
The strategy paid off in the 60th minute when Sandstrom knocked the ball into the net from a corner kick.
“I’m so proud of the boys,” Byrd said. “I’m proud to see them come up big in these big pressure games.”
By finishing third in the Northern A, Columbia Falls earns a play-in game at runner-up Polson for a spot in the State A playoffs.
Columbia Falls 1 1 – 2
Bigfork 0 1 – 1
C – John Gilk (Niels Getts), 30:00
B – Baltazar Alcaraz, 50:00
C – Reed Sandstrom, 60:00
Shots on goal – Columbia Falls 17, Bigfork 2; Corner kicks – Columbia Falls 5, Bigfork 5; Keeper saves – Columbia Falls 4 (Story Stemborski), Bigfork 11 (Caden Riedesel); Fouls – Columbia Falls 4, Bigfork 4.
Whitefish 3, Polson 3
POLSON — Whitefish (11-0-1, 7-0-1) secured a Nothern A title while Polson’s Mack Moderie earned a hat trick as the Pirates (9-1-1, 5-1-1) tied with the Bulldogs.
Whitefish led 3-1 in the 76th minute after a goal by junior Casey Schneider. But Moderie — Class A’s leading scorer with 27 goals — found the net twice in the final three mintues to salvage a draw, including a penalty kick in the 79th minute.
Whitefish coach John Lacey said it was a “well-played match” and that “it felt like playoff soccer one game early.”
The Bulldogs struck first when senior Xander Burger drilled a powerful shot into the net in the 33rd minute, and led 2-0 in the 48th minute on a goal by junior Ian Lacey. Senior Ammann Koch-Ford got the assist by drawing the keeper out and playing a nice pass that Lacey chipped into the net.
But Moderie’s goal in the 69th minute kickstarted a frantic final 10 minutes.
Polson concludes the regular season at Libby on Saturday, but is the Northern A runner-up regardless of the result. It will host third-place Columbia Falls in a State A playoff play-in game.
Whitefish 1 2 – 3
Polson 0 3 – 3
W – Xander Burger (Gabe Menicke), 33:00
W – Ian Lacey (Ammann Koch-Ford), 48:00
P - Mack Moderie (Robin Erickson), 69:00
W – Casey Schneider, 76:00
P – Moderie, 77:00
P – Moderie (penalty kick), 79:00
Shots on goal – Whitefish 7, Polson 10; Corner kicks – Whitefish 1, Polson 3; Keeper saves – Whitefish 7 (Colter Upton), Polson 4 (Kaden Nelson); Fouls – Whitefish 10, Polson 8; Cards – Whitefish 1 yellow, Polson 2 yellow.
Columbia Falls 3, Bigfork 0
BIGFORK — Columbia Falls won its second consecutive Northern A title after defeating Bigfork.
Junior Josie Windauer led the way for the Wildkats (9-3, 6-2), scoring twice in the first half to give the team a 2-0 halftime cushion over the Valkyries (0-12, 0-8). Windauer has 28 goals on the season, two shy of the Columbia Falls school record.
After assisting on Windauer’s second goal, freshman Maddie Robison added a goal of her own in the 61st minute to secure the victory for Columbia Falls and a winless season for Bigfork.
The Wildkats end the season with the same conference record as Whitefish, but win the conference by virtue of head-to-head goal difference, having outscored the Bulldogs 4-3 in their head-to-head matches. Columbia Falls won the conference the same way last season.
“The loss to Polson on Senior Night [last Saturday] was a real shock to the gut,” Columbia Falls coach O’Brien Byrd said.
“We had to dig deep and get some results and take care of our own business.”
The Wildkats will host the second-place team from the Eastern A in the A State Playoffs.
“The hard work is far from over,” Byrd said.
Columbia Falls 2 1 — 3
Bigfork 0 0 — 0
C – Josie Windauer, 20:00
C – Windauer (Maddie Robison), 30:00
C – Robison (Kaylee Ashe), 61:00
Shots on goal – Columbia Falls 25, Bigfork 5; Corner kicks – Columbia Falls 7, Bigfork 0; Keeper saves – Bigfork 18 (Nya Schara), Columbia Falls 10 (Ave McDonald); Fouls – Columbia Falls 5, Bigfork 8
Polson 2, Whitefish 0
POLSON — Polson defeated Whitefisn in a Northern A match.
No scoring details, statistics were available.