BY TYLER HEMSTREET
Nursing a 1-0 lead with two minutes to go until halftime, Bellarmine Prep boys soccer coach Joe Waters was making plans to talk about a conservative game plan for his team in the second half of its Class 4A state quarterfinal game against Puyallup.
His players had other ideas. They wanted to stay aggressive.
And Cooper Doxon’s goal in the 38th minute hammered the point home.
The Lions took advantage of the halftime lead and added two more goals in the second half, running away with a 4-1 quarterfinal win over the Vikings Saturday night at Harry Lang Stadium.
Bellarmine (14-1-2) will play Narrows League 4A champion Central Kitsap at 7 p.m. Friday in the state semifinals at Sparks Stadium. It will be the Lions’ seventh semifinal appearance under Waters.
Doxon scored the momentum-changing goal on a header off a precise throw-in from senior Michael Rector. Doxon timed his jump perfectly and redirected Rector’s toss into the back corner.
“We work on that a lot at practice,” Rector said of the throw-in play. “Practice makes us as close to perfect as it can be. (I) just got a good throw-in and Cooper got his head on it.”
While the goal wasn’t a game-winner, it delivered a huge blow to Puyallup and allowed the Lions to be more aggressive in the second half.
“We scored the second goal at a really good time for us and a really bad time for them,” Waters said. “It certainly changed the whole feeling in the (locker) room. Now you’ve got a 2-0 lead and you’re a lot more comfortable.”
Puyallup coach Matt White agreed.
“That was the one were we went, ‘Ahhh,’” White said of Doxon’s goal.
That attacking mentality showed on the field, as senior Kurtis Pederson added another goal — his second of the game — in the 53rd minute, beating a defender, cutting to the middle and launching a shot past T.J. Josephson from 10 yards out.
“We were playing as a team and definitely attacking hard,” Pederson said. “We just wanted to play together and show everyone what we’ve got.”
Rector tacked on one more later in the half, intercepting a misplayed kick back to the goalie and scoring easily.
“We knew when they were more aggressive, we’d kind of pick them apart more when they were more spread out,” Rector said.
Puyallup (16-4) couldn’t muster much of a push offensively in the second half, with its best attempt at a goal coming off a rebound on a corner kick midway through the half while down 3-0, a shot which Eric Bottjer made a diving save on.
“The boys were very motivated tonight,” Waters added. “They really wanted to win this game, and they went about it in a very business-like manner.”
Shohieb Azami scored Puyallup’s lone goal in the 79th minute.
“For us, our goals have been team first, and continuous improvement,” White said. “This has been a really great group of guys to work with.”