PUYALLUP — Gus Baxter saw daylight on the left side of the goal.
The junior midfielder was drawn to the opening and went for it. Baxter saw. He kicked. He delivered.
Baxter curved in a 19-yard free kick in the 21st minute and the fifth-ranked Snohomish boys soccer team held tough defensively as the Panthers topped sixth-ranked Kentwood 2-0 in the Class 4A state semifinals at Sparks Stadium.
It was the breakthrough his Snohomish High School boys soccer team needed.
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“Their wall was set to where I almost decided to try and clip it over the wall and hit it near post, but the back post was open and the keeper was so out of position,” said Baxter, who has seven goals this season. “I thought far post was open. (Teammate) Uriel Herrera had this look on his face of just determination, and I knew he wanted to hit it.
“I looked at him and I said, ‘Uriel, do you trust me?’ And he said, ‘Yep.’ If it were two or three yards more central, he probably would’ve hit and I would’ve let him. But I’m confident with my left foot from that position.”
Tanner Corrie added a breakaway goal from 16 yards out in the 77th minute for Snohomish. It was Corrie’s 13th tally of the season.
The Panthers (19-2) reached the state-title match for the first time since winning 4A in 2006.
Snohomish faces seventh-ranked Ferris of Spokane (18-2) in the 4A state-championship game Saturday at 5 p.m.
“Before the game, we were like, ‘Guys, nothing gets through us,’ ” Baxter said of the tough defense in the semifinal win.
The Panthers were making their seventh trip to the Final Four, winning 4A state titles in 2000 and 2006 and taking second in 2003.
“This group compared to last year, we just really wanted it,” said Baxter, who was on the 2013 team that took fourth place. “Last year, we had such a good squad, but it seemed as if we didn’t want it enough. You could feel the difference in intensity.”
Kentwood (15-3-3) meets top-ranked Skyview of Vancouver (19-2-3) for third place on Saturday at noon.
Kentwood was making its fifth appearance in the Final Four with school-best finishes of third place in 1988, 2002 and 2011.
Ferris (Spokane) 3, Skyview (Vancouver) 2
Eric Hollenbaugh converted a diving header from 8 yards out on a long cross from Jonathan Galgalo in the 59th minute as the Saxons advanced to the 4A state title match for the fourth time in school history.
Hollenbaugh’s second goal gave his team a 3-2 lead as the Saxons (17-3) scored two goals in an eight-minute span to erase a 2-1 deficit. Ferris won the 1998 state title in 4A and was second in both 1997 and 2001. Matt Beaulaurier headed in a corner kick from teammate Connor Ourada in the 51st minute to knot the match at 2-2.
Eric Ferris, who also had an assist, put Skyview (19-2-3) up 2-1 with a goal in the 40th minute.