At some point, they probably forgot how to lose.
Exactly when that happened is unclear, but what is clear is that this year’s Whitefish boys soccer team earned the right to be mentioned in the ranks of Montana’s best high school soccer teams ever. It is most likely the greatest in Class A’s history.
Whitefish recently wrapped up its second straight perfect season with another state championship, extending its winning streak to 30 games. The squad’s eight seniors have learned to measure losses for the past two years in terms of mental lapses and occasional slipups, as opposed to real scoreboard losses. They expected to win state this year; they were only worried about staying perfect.
“If there was one loss in the last 30 games,” said senior Matt Grindrod, “it would look weird.”
Or as fellow senior Jonas Magstadt put it: “It would look terrible.”
So as it stands, 30-0 looks pretty good. The Bulldogs went 15-0 last year and 15-0 this year, capping off the remarkable run with a 3-1 victory over Libby in the state championship game. In the semifinal, Whitefish beat Livingston 8-0.
Grindrod finished the year seventh in the state in points, while Magstadt came in second. Most years, Magstadt’s 20 goals and nine assists would have made him a lock for most points. This year, though, he had his teammate to deal with – senior Preston Taylor led the state in both goals and assists, scoring 22 goals with 14 assists. Another of Whitefish’s seniors, Shane Widdifield, finished second in assists with 11. Six of the eight seniors were voted all-state this year.
But putting aside all the numbers, records and personal accolades, the seniors understood there was more at stake than a perfect season and state championship. They had a chance to be remembered as one of Montana’s greatest high school soccer teams ever and lived up to the billing.
Assistant Principal Jeff Beck says this year’s team won’t be forgotten any time soon.
“It’s an amazing group,” Peck said. “They’ve cemented a heck of a legacy for us.”
Three seasons ago, Whitefish entered the state tournament with one of the league’s best teams. Looking ahead to the big prize, the boys forgot to look at the steps along the way and stumbled in the quarterfinal, losing to underdog Corvallis. Grindrod, Magstadt and Taylor were sophomores on that team and have used that game as a lesson for the two years since. They know not to overlook anybody.
“It was an awakening for us,” Grindrod said. “They just came in and dominated. In the playoffs, anything can happen.”
For as much as they do in the off-season and during the season, the Bulldogs’ success is also a product of what they don’t do – many don’t play any other sports.
“We play soccer year round,” Grindrod said.
In the summer, Grindrod, Taylor and Magstadt, with a handful of other Bulldogs, play in the men’s league. Coach O’Brien Byrd, they say, gathers stiff local competition of all ages. In the winter they play indoor soccer. Come springtime, they play club ball. None of the three boys plays any other sport.
Grindrod thinks nearly every player on this year’s team is capable of playing college soccer. He said he has looked at a few colleges, including the Colorado School of Mines. Magstadt and Taylor are kicking back and waiting to see what Coach Byrd, who is helping look for colleges, has to say.
It’s difficult to compare championship runs, but the boys said this year’s was the sweetest because they were seniors and they played the big game on their home turf. Also, it’s satisfying to enter a season with high expectations and fully meet them, possibly exceed them.
“Two years in a row just means more,” Taylor said.
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