By Sam Paul-Barrette
The Friday Harbor High School Boys Soccer program is no stranger to big moments. Over its history, the Wolverines have competed in the State Tournament nine times, a testament to generations of dedicated players and coaches. However, when looking at that history, there has always been a glaring omission: a State Championship trophy. Over the past two decades, the Wolverines came close time and time again and fell short. In 2004, it was a team for the ages, led by legendary Head Coach Ron Duke and among others, Johannes Paul, older brother of current Wolverines Head Coach Brett Paul. They were tripped up by eventual champion University Prep in the semi-final, before finishing 4th. In 2014, the Wolverines returned to the Fall season after a spell in the Spring, playing much larger schools in the 1A classification. Led by a group of 10 Seniors, they claimed third but had to watch rival Mt. Vernon Christian lift the trophy. Then, in 2019, a district loss put another senior-laden FHHS squad with big ambitions on a collision course with eventual champion St. George’s, bowing out earlier than planned. After a fully canceled 2020 season due to the COVID-19 virus, Friday Harbor secured a 4th place finish in 2021, including a loss to eventual champion Orcas Island in the semi-final. All landmark teams that made history in their own ways, but couldn’t quite take that final step.
On a cold November Saturday in 2022, something was different. The nerves of a nail-biting Semi-Final penalty kick shootout win against St. George’s the night before were gone. All that remained was hope, expectation, confidence and a terrifying resolve to finally bring home Washington High School Soccer’s biggest prize. In a Championship matchup, most could have (or should have) seen coming, San Juan County’s soccer acumen was on full display at Renton Memorial Stadium, as the Friday Harbor Wolverines faced defending champions, the Orcas Island Vikings. Friday Harbor had already won a trophy against the Vikings this season, with a shootout win in November 5th’s Bi-District Championship match. The Wolverines were determined to prove that they wouldn’t need penalty kicks this time.
As these teams’ fourth meeting of the season kicked off, the Wolverines put pressure on their island rivals early and often, putting a massive and vocal crowd on pins and needles. As the first half wore on, Vikings Senior Diego Lago put forth an excellent defensive performance to keep Friday Harbor at bay heading into the halftime break, a much-needed respite for a pair of teams desperately searching for a breakthrough. If the Wolverines were deflated by a period largely played in their opponent’s half without a goal, they didn’t show it. In the 43rd minute, they were rewarded for their patience, as Owen Conde Raggett found fellow Senior Zach Place, who played an inch-perfect one-touch cross to the head of Junior Alden Carli. Carli, as he had already done 24 times over the course of the season, made no mistake in front of goal, nodding the ball into the back of the net. Cue celebrations. Cue a purple wave of players celebrating in the corner. Cue the Wolverine sideline exploding with joy, exuding the high energy that had already paid dividends in the first half. Soon after, in the 49th minute, a promising Wolverine move resulted in Carli taking a hit inside the penalty area. As the Junior fell to the turf, midfielder Jasper Williamson likely remembered a key tenet of Wolverine Soccer: “No excuses. No seeking out the official to do it for you. Keep going. Next opportunity.” The Senior swooped in, taking a positive touch before laying the ball off to Conde Raggett, who would put it away from close range to give the Wolverines a 2-0 lead.
Of course, the Vikings wouldn’t go down without biting back. Ethan Moss capped a period of sustained pressure for Orcas with a tidy finish to halve the deficit, making for an exciting end to the match. As the Vikings pressed, the Wolverines held their ground, with Senior goalkeeper Luke Totten making saves when called upon and the defense clearing their lines time and time again. With minutes remaining, Conde Raggett found himself in on goal to put the game away. Enter the Vikings’ Celia Groeninger, who recognized the situation well and committed a foul as
the last defender back, taking a red card to keep her team alive and personifying a fighting spirit that had kept Orcas in games against their island rivals all season.
Despite that fighting spirit, it would be those in purple and gold rushing the pitch when the final whistle sounded. After coming out swinging, then weathering a storm to close out the match, Friday Harbor could finally celebrate a State Title on the soccer pitch, the school’s first in any sport since the 1986 Volleyball squad. “Extremely proud of the boys,“ said head coach Brett Paul afterward, “I think our five senior co-captains Luke Totten, Eric Corbin, Jasper Williamson, Jonah Parsons and Colby Border really led this team and set the bar high. The team really put together some of their best soccer in these last two games.”
The Wolverines will graduate an outstanding senior class that included 12 players, all of whom were key contributors to this historic run. “They’re a great group…They not only played good soccer but upheld a positive team culture for our team,” remarked Paul. When looking ahead to the 2023 campaign and beyond, it could be easy to write off any team losing those kinds of numbers. However, with a record 31 players in the program this season and multiple starters returning, coupled with plenty of enthusiastic and skilled players competing in the Friday Harbor FC program poised to enter the fold at the high school level, the future remains bright for Wolverine soccer. And if history has taught us anything? They’ll be back, and they’ll be ready to embrace the big moments.