One week ago, Scott McKay was standing on the sidelines watching the Ketchikan boys’ soccer team gut out a pair of tight 2-1 wins over Sitka.
Suspended 30 days for what coach Mike Medford called a disciplinary issue, all the senior starting midfielder could do was agonize as his teammates struggled to dispatch the much-improved Wolves.
“It was the worst feeling I ever had, watching them play Sitka and I couldn’t do anything about it,” McKay said. “I felt horrible.”
McKay made his return against Juneau-Douglas on April 25, but he officially arrived Saturday, netting the game-winning goal as Ketchikan edged Thunder Mountain 1-0 at Fawn Mountain field.
Coupled with another strong defensive effort, McKay’s first goal of the season gave the Kings a two-game sweep of the Southeast Conference Falcons. He chased down a pass from classmate Stefan Medford in the 47th minute, beating Thunder Mountain goalkeeper Matt Seymour to the ball and firing it into the net with his right foot.
After a moment of celebration he found Medford, and the two seniors embraced.
“Everything just came into place,” McKay said. “We had a quick give-and-go with Stephen. I saw the keeper running out and I knew I could get by him. I saw the angle, and I took it.
“It was an amazing feeling.”
And it at a perfect time, with goals at a premium after Kayhi exploded for a season-high in a 5-2 win Friday.
“It was certainly well-timed,” Mike Medford said, noting McKay has also been playing through foot pain. “We needed that, and Mr. McKay needed that, too. I could see after that goal scored that he had a little more bounce in his step.”
Kayhi went 3-1 without McKay — dropping its season opener in Sitka before winning its next three matches with the Wolves — and was shut out in his first two games back against defending state champion Juneau.
But the Kings are better with McKay at midfield, where his blend of size and speed make him an asset on offense and defense. He proved his worth over the weekend, assisting on the first of two Stefan Medford goals Friday and punching home the game-winner Saturday.
“First of all, he’s got explosive speed,” Mike Medford said. “He’s got a lot of skill, which is what you want out of your center midfielders. He’s just got good game intelligence. When there’s pressure, he knows how to relieve the pressure.”
McKay said he learned a lesson from his early season troubles.
“Be smart,” he said. “Just keep it clean.”
Ketchikan is quickly learning that there are no longer easy matches in the suddenly competitive Southeast.
Thunder Mountain played perhaps its best game of the season Saturday, stifling Kayhi’s offensive attack with an aggressive defensive effort and stellar play by Seymour in goal. Kayhi had its chances, but it seemed like the Kings always had a tough angle, a defender on their hip or Seymour standing in the perfect spot.
After the game, Falcons coach Ry Walters told his players he barely recognized them.
“We brought an intensity that we’ve yet to show this year, and it showed,” Walters said. “A 1-0 loss, we can live with that, for some time. Next we’ve got to get a win.”
But following Friday’s defeat, Walters called Saturday’s loss “a heartbreaker.” Still, he said it felt good to see his side compete against a seasoned Ketchikan program.
“We dominated the game the whole way through and ended up giving up a bit of a cheap goal at the end, but we played with a team that, by all means, can play with any team in the state,” Walters said. “So, I think what we took away form that is we can play with anyone. That’s a great lesson to learn.”
Saul Santana and Ojyo Yo were responsible for the two Thunder Mountain goals on Friday after the team fell down 3-0 at the half. The scores came right after the half as the Falcons pushed their deficit to one goal, but the Kings were able to respond as TMHS pushed its lines forward in hopes of creating late offense.
The 1-0 result was the third match in Kayhi’s last six to come down to one goal. The Kings have won all three.
“It’s good for us,” Mike Medford said. “The good news is, we’re winning these close games. They’re not crumbling under the pressure. They’re playing through it.”
Ketchikan and Thunder Mountain will play two more matches on Friday and Saturday in Juneau.