By COLIN GAISER
The Daily Inter Lake
WHITEFISH — The Bulldog boys wrapped up Class A nonconference soccer play on Saturday with a statement victory over Billings Central, taking down the Rams 4-0 at Smith Fields.
Whitefish (5-0) immediately had the Rams back line on their heels. The Bulldogs found the net in the sixth minute, when junior forward Casey Schneider placed a cross from junior midfielder Ian Lacey into the lower right corner of the goal.
Yet Billings Central tightened its defense and kept the Bulldogs quiet for most of the first half. Lacey’s creative play on the wing and Xander Burger’s presence in the midfield gave Whitefish plenty of chances, but Rams goalkeeper Michael Horrell made several impressive saves.
“Billings [Central] fought hard today,” Whitefish head coach John Lacey said.
“They definitely put some wrinkles into that first half that made things challenging for us. They fought the whole way.”
The Bulldogs finally found the back of the net again in the 33rd minute. After Burger sent a beautiful through ball to Schneider, Schneider fought off a Rams defender and a sliding Horrell to roll the ball into the net.
Whitefish managed a decisive third goal in the 46th minute on a connection between two freshman midfielders. Gabe Menicke crossed the ball from the right corner into the box to a charging Chase Sabin, who gave the keeper no chance at stopping a perfectly placed shot.
Burger gave the Bulldogs a fourth goal in the 59th minute with a powerful shot from outside the box.
“I think Xander Burger had an outstanding game. Everything from the decision-making to the decisiveness on his goal,” Lacey said.
Whitefish played stout defense throughout the match, containing standout Billings Central forward Gabriel Penha and allowing the Rams few chances to get on the scoreboard. Goalkeeper Colter Upton made a few simple saves, but otherwise had little to do.
“Our center backs, Ian Grover and Joseph Houston, are just playing outstanding,” Lacey said. “[They] are keeping a lot of stuff off of our keeper.”
Whitefish is in impressive form entering conference play, which begins under the lights in a visit to Columbia Falls on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
“If we continue to play the kind of soccer we are playing now, the fact that it’s a rivalry game isn’t going to make too much of a difference,” Lacey said. “We’ll be able to get a result, we hope.”
Billings Central 0 0 — 0
Whitefish 2 2 — 4
W – Casey Schneider (Ian Lacey), 6:00
W – Schneider (Xander Burger), 35:00
W – Chase Sabin (Gabe Menicke), 46:00
W – Burger, (59:00)
Shots on goal – Central 4, Whitefish 16; Corner kicks – Central 0, Whitefish 4; Keeper saves – Central 11 (Michael Horrell), Whitefish 4 (Colter Upton); Fouls – Central 3, Whitefish 4; Cards – Central, 1 yellow.
Billings Central 3,
WHITEFISH – The Bulldogs faced an early deficit for the second consecutive day as Billings Central won a nonconference Class A clash at Smith Fields.
The loss dropped Whitefish to 2-3 overall.
Billings Central managed 22 shots on goal, and the Rams’ Solei Elletson stuffed the stat sheet. She assisted on Morgan Ferestad’s goal in the ninth minute before getting unassisted goals of her own in the 26th and 59th minutes.
Whitefish’s Emma Barron scored in the 66th minute, but there was no time for a late comeback.
“I’m immensely confident going forward,” Whitefish head coach Roland Benedict said, citing the team’s performance in back-to-back games against state title contenders,
“This is a really young team, and we’re dealing with some injuries to our captains and older players.”
Despite the result, Benedict was proud of his team’s defensive play against the Rams.
“Billings is going to score good goals on you,” he said.
“It’s about limiting those opportunities, making those opportunities hard, and taking your chances,”
Whitefish opens conference play at Columbia Falls on Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Billings Central 2 1 — 3
Whitefish 0 1 — 1
BC – Morgan Ferestad (Solei Elletson), 9:00
BC – Solei Elletson, 26:00
BC – Solei Elletson, 59:00
W – Emma Barron, 66:00
Shots on goal – Central 22, Whitefish 6; Corner kicks – Central 4, Whitefish 0; Keeper saves – Central 4, Whitefish 12; Fouls – Central 5, Whitefish 8; Cards – None.