Ellensburg FC

Ellensburg FC poses together after winning the Puget Sound Premier League U-11 Boys Silver Division in 2012. Many of these players will be playing for the Ellensburg High School Bulldogs at 1 p.m. today against Clarkston.

This has been an unforgettable season for the Ellensburg High School boys soccer team. From facing loser-out games late in the season, a three-way tie breaker to get into the district playoffs, and then defeating East Valley and Selah high schools in districts to advance to the championship game.

But here they are, having one last opportunity go home or continue this memorable season. Ellensburg lost to Toppenish High School in double overtime in the championship last Tuesday, but will now host Clarkston High School in the crossover matchup today.

But it’s been more than just wins and losses, it’s the group that’s vying together, specifically nine of them have been doing this since their elementary days.

These nine are: seniors Connor Timko, Zach Gabriel, Joahan Baldovinos, Fisher Bachman-Rhodes, Nils Melbourne, Tizoc Barbosa, Daniel Lopez and sophomores Riley Timko and Liam Schedler. They were all coached by — you guessed it — current EHS coach Mark Timko.

Fifth grade is when this cohort formed into the Ellensburg FC, a club team in the Kittitas Valley Soccer Association. Barbosa and Lopez later joined the team, but seven of those players were part of the team from the beginning until it disassembled after seventh grade, as some of the boys went off to different clubs.

Five years later, their time together is winding down at the high school level. That could be today or in the coming weeks. Regardless, they have formed memories that will be carried throughout their lives.

“For me, soccer has been not as much about the game for a long time, as been with friends,” Melbourne said. “It’s been great to have this final year where we’ve gone far — done well and it’s all with my friends.”

Melbourne was reminiscing the days before Ellensburg FC and how competitive they were with one another in the recreational league.

“We were all on our own teams and it was always kind of a competition each year about who’s team would do better,” he said.

The boys enjoyed success with the Ellensburg FC in 2011, winning the state cup in fifth grade. It won all four games by just one goal (sound familiar?).

Mark and the boys stayed in Olympia during that playoff run.

“I remember the first time staying at a hotel over in Olympia with my teammates and I was just like ‘oh, this is so cool! I feel like I’m a big kid now,’” Connor laughed. “Going and playing out of town, staying the night at a hotel and just the whole experience with everyone. It was memorable — it was really cool.”

Mark discussed the benefits of a bulk of those boys playing together at such a young age, and then continuing in high school.

“I think these pockets of talent in Central Washington, whether that be Wenatchee, Meadow, Naches or Ellensburg, the kids don’t go anywhere,” Mark said. “So, they play in the same club and they play together. You go over to like Seattle, when from one location, there can be 10 clubs within 10 miles — kids are always moving around. They are just jumping, looking for better opportunities, looking for the cooler uniforms, going to a new coach, so you don’t build the continuity.

“We’re kind of isolated from that here, and it’s very beneficial to us because there aren’t that many options and they stick together.”

They’re not just teammates either, as they’re all buddies outside the field and classrooms. But it will be the last times seven of those nine run out clad in the Bulldog uniform — and the other three seniors (Dominick Woolsey, Antonio Magana and Jeremy May).

“It’s coming quick, it’s coming quick,” Connor said. “I remember in sixth grade thinking about this, I was like ‘this is never going to come.’ But now, here we are, less than a month a way from graduation.”

Ellensburg hosts Clarkston today at 1 p.m. and Mark said he has a good scouting report on its opponent. The last three games have been decided by one goal for the Bulldogs.

Clarkston has two solid forwards and if the bulwark Ellensburg defense can contain those two, Mark believes his team can win and earn a bid to state.

“It’s also about who’s getting over the loss,” Mark said. “We both lost on Tuesday, and we both wanted to win districts and neither of us did. We can’t carry that baggage into tomorrow — neither team can.”

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