Prairie Seeds Academy 3-2 Mankato East Cougars
The Boys Class A Championship game saw two undefeated teams face off against each other. Mankato East Cougars came in with a 20-0-2 record and fielded a team that included Class A Mr. Soccer Adam Osman. On the other side was Prairie Seeds Academy (PSA) touting a 20-0-1 record. PSA had scored so many goals and defeated most teams so soundly that many had written off the Cougars of having any sort of chance. But the team from Southwestern Minnesota had no plans to roll over and allow PSA to run rampant.
The game started off with Mankato East giving PSA a run for their money in the middle third of the field and Mankato’s Adam Osman had the first good scoring chance. He tagged a driven ball from 20 yards out. The shot forced a full extension from PSA keeper Mayolo Beltran to keep the ball from going into the upper 90 on his near side.
But the momentum soon shifted as PSA took an early lead in the 17th minute on a Carlos Boquin goal. Junior midfielder Oscar Cendejas drove a well weighted through ball to Carlos Boquin. The freshman forward pushed the ball past the defensive line of Cougars. Near the 18-yard box he fired past Mankato East goalkeeper Derrick Davis to put PSA up 1-0.
The goal seemed to shift the momentum and at halftime the stats had PSA up 12-3 on shots and 4-2 on corner kicks.
The momentum seemed to stay in PSA’s favor after the half and just 3 minutes into the second half Isaac Kanneh let rip a shot that was goal bound. But Davis knocked the ball out of bounds just before it found its way inside the far right post.
Mankato East’s Turner Johnson took a shot from 35 yards out that was driven so hard it caused Beltran to spill the ball. The ball flipped out of his hands and looked like it might dribble into goal but found the goalkeeper’s best friend, the goalpost. Beltran pounced on the loose ball.
In the 53rd minute Boquin zigzagged through the ME defense. and was tripped up in the box. Referee Tariq Aouch pointed to the spot and awarded PSA the PK. Gerald Ben stepped up to take the shot. He hit it just to the right of Davis but the goalkeeper, who had come up big all game, was up to the task. He dove and deflected the ball away keeping his Cougars in the match.
In the 65th minute Boquin, who was dangerous on the dribble all game, played a ball to Adama Keita. He dribbled into the box from the left side of goal and neatly tucked the ball inside the near left post putting PSA up 2-0.
It took the Cougars less then 30 seconds to answer with a goal of their own. Osman blasted a ball from long range that gave Beltran no chance.
Just before the goal Mankato East head coach Jerrad Aspelund had moved his team to a 4-3-3 which seemed to shift the momentum back in the Cougars favor.
The momentum shift led to several good attempts for Mankato East. In the 75th minute the Cougars blasted a shot that went low to the left post. Beltran bobbled the ball and Brandon Welter was there to gather the rebound. He played the ball out to Osman who found himself with an open net from 8 yards out. The goal tied the game at 2 apiece with 6 minutes to play.
With 3 minutes left on the clock, Carlos Boquin took a 25-yard shot that dipped as it approached Davis. He made the stop but the ball rebounded up and hit the bottom of the crossbar but never fully crossed the line. Kanneh tried to get to the rebound but Davis got his hand on the ball to kill the play.
Regulation time ended with the score tied 2-2.
The game proceeded to sudden death extra time with both teams having chances. After neither team scored in the initial 10 minutes the teams exchanged sides and imediatly began the second overtime session.
Just 20 seconds after the kickoff, Ben redeemed himself for his missed PK and slammed the ball into the goal for the dramatic game winner. The assist went to Adama Keita.
“After the missed PK I had to do something,” said Ben as he celebrated his game-winning goal. “I was so relieved to score that goal. If I hadn’t scored I wouldn’t be sleeping tonight thinking about my missed chance. Fortunately I scored and that’s all that matters.”
“In some parts of the game we made it harder for ourselves,” continued Ben. “After they scored the two goals we started panicking. Our coach doesn’t like that at all and was pretty heated up about that. If we had just played our game we could have made it easier on ourselves.”
“It was just disgusting how teams gave them so much respect that they sat back and just played defense,” said Osman after the game. “Obviously they are a really good team and you have to respect them. But you don’t have to play in your 18-yard box. We are really strong in the middle so we wanted to go after them in the middle. At times I think they controlled it and at times we controlled it. I’d say it was a 50-50 game. At the end it could have gone either way. That’s just how the game is and they’re the champions. But I’m really proud of our team.”
“Wow, you’ve got to give my guys credit,” said Coach Aspelund. “Nobody expected us to beat this team. Nobody expected us to score a goal. Nobody expected us to go into overtime with them. Youssef has said that teams come in knowing they’re not going to win. We didn’t take that attitude. We did our research and we knew what they were about and how they play. We used their game and threw it right back in their face. Sometimes it’s just not your day.”
Aspelund reflected on the tactical move he made midway thought the second half.
“As soon as I put three guys up top we scored two goals right away. Should I have done that sooner? I don’t think so. I don’t think I’d change anything.”
“These kids are like my own kids,” said Youssef Darbaki after the game. The Prairie Seeds Academy head coach spoke with tears in his eyes. “Some of them I’ve known since they were 10 years old. So to see them achieve something like this is big. To see some of them moving on to college is even bigger. There’s been a lot of challenges to our program and a lot of negativity from some people. For me to see them go beyond that …”
The Prairie Seeds Academy coach stopped, wiped his eyes and beamed.