WENDELL — It was a reunion of teammates, a time to bond with division opponents and a celebration of a great year. But most of all, it was one last game for the seniors.
The District 4 All-Senior soccer games, played at Wendell High School, were all of the above, and despite the competition on the field, it really was a fun time for the players as each gave it their all for the last time as high school players.
The teams were stacked with talent. Seventeen girls were featured on this year’s All-Great Basin Conference team, including co-players of the year Caitlin Crist of Canyon Ridge and Lexi Rierson of Twin Falls. Eight of the GBC boys were featured on their respective all-conference team.
And for a few coaches, it was a final time to oversee seniors who helped their teams earn playoff spots.
Jeralee Jones, head coach of the Declo girls team, led her squad into the state tournament for the first time in program history, thanks in part to her seniors on the field last night. She coached the South team in the All-Senior Game.
“It was really fun having some more time with my team and others, too,” she said. “Definitely something I want to do again.”
As chance would have it, the Declo senior who scored the 3A playoff-clinching goal, Halee Whitehead, would be the first one on the board for the South, scoring in the fourth minute.
From thereon out, it was South all the way. Former Times-News prep athlete of the week Madison Glascock of Twin Falls scored twice to follow, and Idanna Webb of Filer rounded out the first half’s four goals for South.
Lupita Patlan of Wood River also scored in the first half, the lone goal for the North squad on the night.
Crist put her skills on display with a second-half breakaway goal, and Bruin Ellie Jackson scored with one minute left to give the game the final score of 6-1.
On the boys’ side, Bliss Head Coach Dustin Henkelmann headed the North team, after his Bears lost a tight state championship game to Weiser. He said the chance to be with his seniors, some of whom he didn’t get to see during the year as a teacher at Shoshone, for one last game was nice.
“We needed a little bit of a release after that tough loss at state,” he said. “It was good to play a game just for fun with no pressure.”
The boys game played much tighter, with both teams eyeing a lot of chances around the goal.
“It was a pretty evenly matched game in terms of talent,” Henkelmann said, but added, “I think the South came out more organized and more like a team.”
After 20 minutes of no score, Jesse Cardenas of Burley started the scoring for the South side, followed up minutes later by Tony Schneider of Twin Falls.
4A state champion forward Jose Quinonez of Wood River headed a ball off the keeper’s redirect to give North life midway through the second half, but two late goals by Abdelgadir Mohamed and Sagar Bhattari, both of Canyon Ridge, would seal the 4-1 victory and a Southern sweep of the All-Senior Games.
But even though the competition was fierce, the game presented many light moments. The South side girls team, dressed in all white gear, dubbed themselves “The White Chicks.”
And in the second half, Burley head coach Angel Anguiano, who led the South boys team, was approached by one of his goalkeepers with what would have been an unusual request any time other than this game.
“He said, ‘Hey coach, can I be out on the field?’” Anguiano said. “And I told him, ‘Just don’t get hurt, please.’”
Seniors like Quinonez said it was a low stakes game but one that meant a lot to the players.
“It was just fun being with other teams and sharing our last game in high school together,” he said.