There is a sense of history brewing around Tahoma High as this weekend arrives. It’s a sense that members from the boys soccer and baseball teams have felt growing all spring.
“That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking,” senior soccer player Nacho Brandon said. “I feel like I was put here at the right time.”
Brandon has experienced the feeling both on and off the pitch, actually. His second-year coach, Rick Maloy, has heard it from those in the community but outside the school.
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While at the park near Pipe Lake with his girlfriend, Brandon heard screaming. A 6-year-old cub scout was stranded in a tree overhanging the lake water.
“He wasn’t in any real danger,” Maloy said. “The Lake is like two feet deep there. But a 6-year-old doesn’t know that.”
Still, Brandon didn’t hesitate. He heard the screaming and immediately went to help the little boy. Right place, right time.
It happened on another occasion recently, as well, when one of the Tahoma track coaches was having trouble getting his wheelchair out of a car. Brandon was there and jumped in to help.
“Those are just the ones I’ve heard about in the last couple of weeks,” said Maloy, who somehow found himself in the right place at the right time to lead this Bears team into the 4A state semifinals. Tahoma will play Skyline, a team its already beaten this season, in the first semifinal on Friday at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup, with kickoff set for 4:30 p.m.
The Bears are chasing the program’s first state championship since 1992, the only time in the school’s history that it has won a boys soccer state title. That it’s taken 31 years to get back into position is not lost on them.
“Obviously, I wasn’t even born,” Brandon said. “It’s just a very positive vibe. Everybody around school is excited.”
The campus isn’t only buzzing about soccer, either. The Tahoma baseball team finds itself in position to make its first state title game appearance since 1988, when the Bears lost the 3A championship game to North Kitsap.
Tahoma plays the second of two 4A baseball semifinals at Funko Field in Everett, also on Friday, with first pitch set for 7 p.m. The baseball nine’s tall task lives in the form of top-seeded Eastlake, the Bears semifinal opponent.
Right place, right time?
Tahoma’s baseball team has been defying the odds all season already. The Bears were the last unbeaten 4A team in the state, not losing until their final regular season game against No. 2 Puyallup at the beginning of May.
Tahoma then lost a second time in the district tournament to Olympia. The other Bears then went on to beat the Vikings for the district title.
But Tahoma avenged that second loss of the year a week ago, beating Olympia in the Round of 16, 5-0. With Puyallup playing No. 11 Sumner in the other semifinal on Friday, if the Bears can somehow advance to the championship game on Saturday they likely will have the opportunity to avenge both of their season losses.
Down in Puyallup, meanwhile, the Tahoma soccer team could get a similar chance at the Vikings. The Puyallup soccer team also is in the Final Four, against No. 13 Davis of Yakima.
“Can you imagine if the baseball and soccer teams both make the final?” Brandon said. “And both take the trophy playing Puyallup? That would be crazy.”
For Maloy, a title would culminate an unlikely two-year journey. The coach and former Tahoma player (he was in school in 1992 but did not play on that state title team) actually retired before the 2022 season after some 25 years coaching around the state at places like Kent-Meridian, Meridian and others.
“I put in my 25 years,” Maloy said. “I thought that was enough. But then a lifelong friend called me. His son was a senior on the Tahoma team last year and they needed a coach. It was something to which I couldn’t say ‘No.’ And, I couldn’t be happier.”
Jaden Briere, that senior a year ago, missed this state run by a year. But he was at least partly responsible for Maloy’s coming back to his alma mater and being here to lead this current group.
It’s a group that that supports and gets that support returned.
“The baseball guys are at like every one of our games, cheering us on,” Brandon said.
This weekend, of course, will be an exception with the baseball team in Everett playing while the soccer team is playing in Puyallup. The only question that remains is whether either or both will bring the big trophies back to Maple Valley.