PUYALLUP — There’s no doubt how much Lakeside boys soccer coach Mark Szabo already appreciated the talents of senior forward Justin Blachman.
The level of appreciation was just elevated Saturday. Blachman’s teammate Joe-Joe Richardson concurs.
Blachman, strong and elusive up front, delivered a gold-star performance with a goal and an assist — in the first half — as Lakeside ran past a defensive-driven Bellevue team 2-0 in the Class 3A state championship match at Sparks Stadium.
“I couldn’t ask for playing with anyone better,” said Richardson, a junior midfielder. “He complements me very well. I typically like to play a little more touch on the ball, and he’s someone who I can get the ball to in behind the defense and his pace just carries him.
“Today, he was just on another level. He was just ready to go from the beginning. He just knew it was his last game. He talked about wanting to have fun and ending on a high note and that’s what he did today.”
The Lions (17-0-5) diced up a Bellevue defense that had given up just 14 goals all season. Lakeside was more aggressive offensively, especially in the first half, and that allowed the Lions to add to the school’s only previous state title in 2014.
“Throughout the season we grew and we improved and we integrated people back into the system after the were gone (with school trips and activities),” said Szabo, the Lions’ coach in his 16th year. “These last three weeks have just been fantastic.”
The Lions were dominant in state play, outscoring opponents 9-0 in four matches with goalkeeper Will Johnson earning all the shutouts to reach 15 this season. Lakeside finished the season with a 58-7 scoring advantage.
But it was Lakeside’s ability to pierce the vaunted Wolverines’ defense that won out. Bellevue, which hadn’t been to a state final since winning in 1977, finished 16-1-3, its lone loss under first-year coach Steve Zakuani, a former Sounder.
Blachman received a long pass on the run down the right sideline and beat Bellevue goalkeeper Jackson Buck with a 13-yard shot inside the near right post in the 19th minute to give the Lions a 1-0 lead. Sophomore Rafael Otero sent a long pass to Blachman to give him the one-on-one opportunity against the keeper for his 15th goal of the season despite missing five matches for a school trip.
Blachman found teammate Richardson in front of the goal and Richardson slid a 12-yard shot past a defender and Buck for a 2-0 advantage for Lakeside in the 30th minute.
“He’s able to open up space and draw defenders away from me,” Richardson said.
It seemed like the energy meter full tilt from the start for Blachman, who played with energy and passion the whole match.
“We knew (Bellevue) was good in the back, but we thought we could win it in quick transition and counters and that’s what we did,” said Blachman, who will play at NCAA Division III Claremont McKenna College in the fall. “We practiced that and we talked about that. We came into the game and we finished it.”
Interlake edged Mountain View of Vancouver 2-0 in the third/fourth-place game