The town of Stevensville is gearing up, judging from the paint and the porta-johns.
There is good reason: The Yellowjackets play host to Livingston for the State A boys’ soccer championship Saturday at 1 p.m.
It’s a first for the program, which has been trending up the last eight seasons and is 13-0-1 heading into the final against 9-5-0 Livingston.
“It’s amazing,” said Ralph Serrette, the Yellowjackets’ veteran coach. “They’re painting the town. The parents got permission. I don’t know what that involves, but the parents are really excited.”
The more pressing matter is taking on a Livingston team that took care of two-time defending champion Whitefish two weeks ago by a 4-0 score.
The Bulldogs had handled Livingston 5-1 earlier in the season, but the Rangers romped behind two goals from Daniel Newhouse, who then added another goal in the Rangers’ 2-1 overtime semifinal win over Belgrade.
Murphy Polsak scored the game-winner in the 100th minute against Belgrade. It was Polsak’s seventh goal of the season, and teammate Tom Short got his eighth goal against Whitefish.
But Newhouse is the key, with 15 goals to go with six assists.
“We’ve been watching the stats,” Serrette said. “We will be having an eye on him.
“I got to view their game against Whitefish, and the kids got to see it over and over. We kind of know what to expect. I don’t know if that’s a good deal or a bad deal.”
Stevensville has continued to play well in the playoffs. Joseph Daniels notched his 15th and 16th goals of the season in a 4-1 semifinal win over Billings Central. He also added his ninth assist in that victory.
Payden Belcourt isn’t far behind Daniels with 11 goals; Chance Coleman has nine, as does Daniel Pendergast, along with seven assists.
The Jackets don’t stop there: Sam Giese and Joseph Fecteau each notched their first goals during this postseason run. Fecteau had his last week against Billings Central; Giese scored on a penalty kick in Stevensville’s 3-1 quarterfinal win over Libby.
All this firepower could help against the defensive-minded Rangers, who are also making their first title-game appearance.
“They pass well in the midfield and they pass well on defense,” said Serrette. “They’ve got a couple talented kids — kids who can do magic with the ball. And I know they’re big. We have those things to worry about.“
Yet the Yellowjackets, who have been home throughout these playoffs, seem to be a loose bunch. A majority having been teammates since middle school. Coleman and Ian Perry have controlled the midfield all season, and Saturday the season reaches its pinnacle.
You can tell it’s big by the number of water closets next to Stevensville’s pitch.
“For the semis last week they only had three outhouses,” Serrette said. “They’ve brought in three more for a total of six.
“The kids are kind of measuring the event by the amount of outhouses they bring in. It’s pretty funny.”
GIRLS: Whitefish (12-2-0) at Billings Central (14-0-0), 11 a.m.
The five-time defending champion Rams have not skipped a beat under first-year coach Sara Campbell.
“When I came in I told them that there would be a few things that would be different. But I wasn’t here to change any good things,” Campbell said. “The things that are good, I wanted to keep.”
The Rams (14-0-0) will try to capture their sixth consecutive Class A state championship Saturday when they host Whitefish (12-2-0) at Wendy’s Field at Rocky Mountain College.
Campbell, a two-time All-Big Sky Conference player during her career at the University of Montana (2005-08), took over for longtime coach Laurie Stergar, who built the program into a juggernaut the previous eight seasons.
Though this is Campbell’s first go-round as coach, she’s sustained it. And Central’s players – notably five seniors – know what it takes to close out matches at this time of year.
“I think being here before has a big impact on it. We know what to expect,” said senior midfielder Becca Shipp. “It’ll be stressful, but it’s a good kind of nervous. The nerves prepare us and help us feel ready to play.”
Whitefish boasts two of the top scorers in Class A in freshman Haley Nicholson (18 goals, 7 assists) and sophomore Anna Peterson (10g, 9a). The Bulldogs beat Livingston in the first round and Frenchtown in the semifinals.
Central relied heavily on the scoring of senior attacker and University of Montana recruit Allie Lucas, but it’s been more spread out in the playoffs. Lucas scored 30 goals in 11 regular-season games, yet has one in two postseason matches.
The match will be broadcast live online at www.kjcrradio.com.