Polson boys’ soccer team plans for playoffs
POLSON — “It’s not a rebuilding year, it’s a reloading year,” said Jess Kittle, Polson High School boys soccer coach.
Kittle, his assistant coach Mike Moll and volunteer coaches Chris Moore and Dane Huyser have five seniors on their team.
Senior James Larson is a returning all state soccer player, Kittle said, and “plays anyplace I want him.”
From his midfield position, Senior David Walk plays defense.
Senior keeper Spencer Kittle is a workhorse, catching, kicking and deflecting balls from the goal.
Kellen Hoyt and Jarrod Plant, seniors, too, are both brand new to soccer, Kittle said, and they came late to the soccer team since they were both doing their U.S. Army basic training. But both young men are “fired up and aggressive.”
Hoyt enjoys the comradery of the team, he said.
He also had good things to say about Coach Kittle.
”He’s just an all-around great coach,” Hoyt said.
Polson won against Bigfork on Sept. 25, and Kittle wants to build on that momentum for their games against Libby and Columbia Falls this week.
“These guys have played together a lot. The U-16 team is the core group, and they won the state championship,” he added.
This year, the boys have improved on the whole team aspect of the game, Kittle explained, especially passing and touches. They’re trusting their teammates to be there and using each other to get out of jams.
Whitefish looks to be strongest in Western Montana in Class A, Kittle said.
“Whitefish beat us in the championship game at state last year,” he remembered.
Whitefish always has a good team and good junior varsity kids coming up.
That’s one problem Polson has because Polson Middle School doesn’t have a program. The only feeder for high school soccer is the Polson Soccer Association. Even then, Kittle said, soccer loses athletes to football, golf or cross-country in the fall.
Billings Central is probably the best soccer team in the state, Kittle thinks. For the state championship, the top three teams in the three divisions come together in a tournament. There are 14 soccer programs statewide.
It’s hard to tell what teams are tough in the southern division, Kittle said, since so many games in the Bitterroot have been cancelled due to smoke. Hamilton and Corvallis even played some varsity games in Polson
It looks as if Stevensville is leading the pack with Frenchtown and Corvallis as contenders.
Stevensville and Hamilton played their varsity games in Polson because of the smoke, Kittle said.
Kittle is willing to work with anybody who wants to be on the team. He and his assistants started their two-a-day practices doing an ”awful lot of conditioning to get the boys over a summer of playing video games and texting.” Then the coaches start working on technical aspects of the game and fundamental skills.
Asked if an athletic kid can learn to play soccer, Kittle said sure and cited Hoyt and Plant as rookies in high school soccer.
With a conference record of 1-4 and a non-conference tally of 2-5, the Pirates’ goal is to get into the playoffs, Kittle said.
Senior night for the Pirates was Thursday, and although the score doesn’t reflect a close game, Kittle said it really was an exciting and intense match.
“The guys played hard and never gave up; I am so proud of them,” Kittle said. “Whitefish is a very good team this year; they have a lot of quality players on the field. We have a few things to be proud of from this game.”
Those include the facts that Thursday marked the first time this season Whitefish has been behind in a game, and the Bulldogs have only been scored on three times in nine games this year — Polson is responsible for two of those goals.
Against Bigfork Sept. 25, the Pirates struggled to find their rhythm in the opening 20 minutes. But Larson was able to get to a loose ball in front of the net for a goal at the 70-minute mark before the Bigfork keeper could scoop it up. Five minutes later, Sam Heutmaker made a nice pass to Larson, who turned the ball, looked upfield and put a 30-yard pass out in front of Jonah Kasnitz. Kasnitz ran past the Bigfork defenders for the game winner.
Whitefish 8, Polson 1
Polson - James Larson (PK) 11:00
Whitefish - Sam Donaldson (Tommy Murphy) 17:00
Whitefish - Jon Dittman (Iaian Cameron) 37:00
Whitefish - Donaldson 40:00
Whitefish - Murphy (Nathan Boone) 52:00
Whitefish - Edland (Boone) 55:00
Whitefish - Donaldson 64:00
Whitefish - Sean Janni (Donaldson) 70:00
Whitefish - Chance Ling 75:00
Bigfork 1, Polson 2
Bigfork - Anthony Fopp (Austin Gordon) 3:00
Polson - James Larson 70:00
Polson - Jonah Kasnitz (James Larson) 75:00