OLYMPIA — It was no surprise that Black Hills packed in defenders at its end of the field. The surprise was how well it worked and for how long.
The underdog Wolves scored the game’s first goal and kept the 2A Evergreen Conference champion Capital Cougars off the scoreboard for the first 16 minutes of Friday’s first-round Class 2A District 4 playoff game.
But Capital adjusted, getting two goals apiece from Nigel El-Sokkary and Kellan O’Neill in a 5-2 victory at Ingersoll Stadium.
The Cougars improved to 16-1 on the season and advance to a home game Tuesday against the winner of Saturday’s match between Centralia of the EvCo and Hockinson of the Greater St. Helens League.
Capital had the edge in experience and skill, but the Wolves at no time made it easy.
“We wanted to frustrate them a little bit,” Black Hills coach Frank Soiza said, “and get a quick counter. We did that.”
Black Hills struck 10 minutes into the first half when Casey Duff redirected a pass from Gabe Ayala into the net, past Capital goalkeeper Jakob Racimo.
After that, the Wolves took a primarily defensive posture, which Capital coach Andrew Lopez expected they would in the third matchup between the EvCo foes this season.
“We sort of know each other pretty well,” he said. “We had to spread the field and make them come out of their defensive shell.”
The dam eventually burst. O’Neill, a senior midfielder, found himself in space after a pass from Aidan Klemmer, and popped the ball into the net past Black Hills goalkeeper Brock Leeper with 16:45 on the ascending first half clock.
The Cougars kept Leeper busy in the next 15 minutes, with at least six decent looks at goals, before El-Sokkary, a sophomore midfielder, found net after a long pass from Sam Reimertz to give Capital a 2-1 lead.
The Cougars’ lead bloomed to 3-1 with less than five minutes to play in the first half when El-Sokkary punched the ball through Leeper’s hands, with the assist by O’Neill.
It was O’Neill again eight minutes into the second half, left-footing it into the goal off an assist by Klemmer.
The Wolves did not go quietly. Derick Cutler, a junior midfielder, cut Black Hills’ deficit to 4-2 with a goal 17 minutes into the second half. Duff had a goal wiped off the board minutes later by a foul on Capital an instant before he put his foot to the ball.
A bang-bang sequence late in the second half closed the scoring. Leeper made an outstanding block on a long shot by El-Sokkary, but Rodolpho Castillo Lopez, a sophomore forward, banged in the rebound for Capital.
Capital’s precision passing inevitably wore down the Wolves.
“That’s a huge focal point for us,” Lopez said.
Soiza found plenty to like in the game for his young team, which has just two seniors.
“They’re a good team, very skilled, and from the very first minute, we scared ’em,” he said of the Cougars. “In the second half we came and played evenly, really, on both ends.”
Black Hills (5-11) lives to play again. The Wolves face a loser-out match Tuesday against Saturday’s Centralia-Hockinson loser.