Originally Posted on westwildcats.org
May isn’t a month normally associated with cold, but the temperature plummeted as low as 48 degrees as hundreds of spectators packed into Morrison Stadium for the Class A boys’ soccer finals last Monday. Facing off for the title were the Junior Jays of Creighton Prep against the Wildcats of Millard West.
Millard West’s run to the title was a long shot from an analytical standpoint. The week of May 12th, the Wildcats were No. 5. Creighton Prep entered the week two spots higher at No. 3.
The Wildcats faced a tough run throughout the state tournament, often labeled as the underdog from the beginning. This was especially apparent in their semifinal game, when they took on No. 1 ranked Omaha South. The Packers had beaten the Wildcats when the two faced off in the regular season 2-0 and 4-1.
In the semifinal game, the teams stayed tied through regulation and went into penalty kicks when overtime still couldn’t determine a winner. In the shootout, both teams scored every goal in the first six rounds. In the top of the seventh, forward Daniel Zapata found the net, beating the goalkeeper to go ahead.
It proved to be the game winner. In the bottom of the round, goalie Chase Bishop got a hand on South’s kick, sending it away from the post and with it sending away the Packers’ title hopes.
The Junior Jays’ ride through the playoffs proved to be slightly easier. Prep beat Millard North in the semifinals 2-0 to punch their ticket to Morrison Stadium for their shot at the title.
Hopes were high for both teams as they took the field on Monday. Both schools had enormous amounts of students on hand to cheer on their teams throughout the game.
The first half saw a physical 40 minutes of play, with both teams jockeying for an advantage, and yet neither team able to find one. The ball traveled the field an uncountable number of times, with both teams locked in a stalemate in a field position battle.
A score was finally recorded about midway through the half, when a foul was called against the Wildcats within the goalie crease. Prep’s Michael Korbitz went to the line, and managed to get the resulting shot past Bishop to slip ahead 1-0.
The foul was questioned by some watching, but Zapata said the team couldn’t do anything about the call, and had to continue playing.
“Luckily, it was really early in the game, and we had time to come back,” he said.
Zapata returned the favor later in the half in strong fashion. He was given a perfect pass on Prep’s end of the field, and tried to head it into the goal. The ball bounced off the bottom of the bar, but came back to him, and he was able to put it into the net to tie it up.
“I knew that we were down by one, and I knew that we had to get a goal in, and tie the game up if we wanted a chance,” Zapata said.
The game stayed equal in the second half until sophomore Caden Frank saw his opportunity.
A ball bounced off of a Junior Jay, and landed in front of Frank, with the goal within reach. After a moment of confusion in which he searched for the ball, not seeing it, he struck it and put it into the back of the net to boost the Wildcats to 2-1.
“I was just trying to find the ball, the crowd was all yelling to turn around. I was kinda confused, so I just listened to the crowd,” Frank said.
After the momentum-shifting goal, Millard West was able to take the reins and hold on for the rest of the game. A final goal by Frank came toward the end of the game when he received a perfect cross from sophomore Eric Fahner. Frank beat the goalie and put the ball in the back of the net for a 3-1 win and the championship.
Coach Ron Beernink said the team played well on the way to the title.
“After Prep scored the first goal, we were under a lot of pressure, and we were able to keep the game at 1-0, and not give up another,” Beernink said. “When Dan Zapata scored to get it to 1-1 right before halftime, that allowed us to catch our breath.”
Beernink will be retiring at the end of this year after 20 years at the helm of the Wildcats. It added to the thrill of Millard West’s title victory.
“He definitely deserved a championship,” Frank said.
Beernink agreed, saying it felt great.
“I know how fortunate I am, and am happy for the kids that will remember this when they’re my age,” he added.