After a five-year absence, the Bulldogs are headed to the state title game.
Whitefish will face Belgrade on Saturday for the championship after holding off Frenchtown 3-1 in a semifinal match over the weekend.
Goals by Xander Burger, Avery Hirsch and Noah Romagnuolo gave the Dogs the win in a stellar defensive effort against the Broncs.
Bradlee Anderson, filling in for injured goalie Colter Upton, denied 12 of Frenchtown’s shots on goal to seal the deal.
Burger opened the scoring with a goal in the 16th minute, but the Broncs’ Jeff Jacobs netted a goal to tie the score going into halftime.
A penalty kick by Hirsch in the 50th minute gave Whitefish the lead, and Romagnuolo added his own score to put the Dogs up two for the remainder of the match.
“The boys played pretty well,” head coach John Lacey said. “Another good defensive effort, had a little luck thrown in — Frenchtown hit the post a few times — but a little luck at this time is nice.”
“We’re about scoring goals, and three goals at this stage now is a winning line,” he added.
Now it’s on to the title match.
Belgrade and Whitefish faced off earlier in the year. Belgrade came out on top, 2-1, in a Sept. 2 match between the two teams.
And while the Dogs haven’t made it to the title game since 2012, Belgrade is no stranger to the match — this will be the fourth consecutive appearance in the championship, and last year they took home the title.
“We know them, and we’re confident. It was 1-0 us at half [the last time we played],” Lacey said. “We feel pretty good about our ability to match up with them. Belgrade is going to play soccer with us, it’s not going to be about athleticism, it’s going to be who can hold the ball and make the adjustments in game to get a result.”
In addition to the familiarity with Belgrade, Lacey said his team is peaking at the right time and ready for the ultimate challenge.
“We feel real good about it. We’re confident from the way we played them back in September, we’re confident now that we’re playing good soccer, and we’re confident because, ‘Hey, we’re in the final — let’s go win a game,’” Lacey said. “These last 80 minutes, this is why you play.”
Whitefish 1 2 — 3
Frenchtown 1 0 — 1
W — Xander Burger (Noah Romagnuolo), 16:00
F — Jeff Jacobs (Tradd Richardson), 38:00
W — Avery Hirsch (penalty kick), 50:00
W — Romagnuolo, 62:00
Shots on goal — Whitefish 12, Frenchtown 13. Goalie saves — Whitefish 12 (Bradlee Anderson 12), Frenchtown 9 (Quinn Murphy 2, Dawson Leishman 7). Corner kicks — Whitefish 3, Frenchtown 4. Fouls — Whitefish 8, Frenchtown 5. Cards — Whitefish 3 (Casey Schneider, yellow; Avery Hirsch, yellow; Sam Menicke, red).