Mall of America Field (Metrodome)
Boys 1A Final
Benilde-St. Margaret’s 3-1 Prairie Seeds Academy
The Minnesota Boys’ 1A State Final featured the 1st and 2nd seed in the tournament. Prairie Seeds Academy(PSA) (19-1-2) were hoping to repeat as State Champions in just their second appearance in the state, while Benilde-St. Margaret’s (19-2-1) could finish with their 5th title.
During the regular season PSA outscored their opponents 135 goals to 13, but despite their attacking ability it was Benilde-St. Margaret’s that found the back of the net first. “Most teams when they play [PSA] stay in a shell and let them attack you, but we thought maybe we would attack them,” said senior and Class 1A Mr. Soccer John Mulvahill. In the 6th minute senior Dan Lundberg let loose a long range shot that PSA keeper Betzabet Valle couldn’t handle. The rebound fell to the feet of senior Jake Horton who put it in the back of the net. “All year we talked about how we need to crash our shots,” explained Mulvahill.
A few minutes later Horton nearly doubled his tally and his team’s lead from a free kick. From just outside the penalty box Horton sent a shot that went over the wall and began to dip down, however the ball didn’t fall far enough and the shot hit the crossbar.
Carlos Boquin for PSA readies to shoot against BSM keeper Kevin Lebahn. All photos by Jeremy Olson – www.digitalgopher.net
PSA pushed to respond after nearly going down two goals in the first 8 minutes of the game. Junior Ismaila Jome made a number of dangerous runs down the right side of the field, but PSA struggled to find the creative flair they have been known for.
In the 13th minute the game shifted in favor of PSA after sophomore Carlos Boquin made his appearance in the final after missing the team’s semi-final game because he was under investigation by the High School league. After being cleared to play, Boquin made an immediate impact on the game.
Less than a minute after entering the game, Boquin stepped up to take a PSA free-kick from 30 yards out. With his very first touch of the game Boquin sent in a driven shot on goal that had enough pace on it to beat a diving attempt by senior keeper Kevin Lebahn low to his right.
After the tying goal, the game began to get very physical. By the end of the half both team combined for a total of 27 fouls. Both back lines were put under pressure from the buildup play by PSA and the quick passing from Benilde-St. Margaret’s. “What we wanted, both offensively and because of the physical game, was to get them making quicker decisions about their passes…so that we could move the ball faster and avoid the [physical play] as much as possible,” said Benilde-St. Margaret’s coach Dave Platt.
The number of fouls PSA suffered also led to some dangerous free-kick opportunities for Boquin; however he was unable to replicate his previous success.
In the second half Benilde-St. Margaret’s would find themselves once again up by an early goal. In the 48th minute a long throw found its way into the box. PSA’s keeper found himself stranded too far out from his goal leaving two players from both PSA and Benilde-St. Margaret’s to fight for a loose ball a few yards from the goal. Eventually senior Carter Eckerline was able to get a touch into the goal. Despite regaining their one goal lead Benilde-St. Margaret’s had no intention of waiting out the rest of the game. “You don’t want to fall into a defensive shell against a quality team like PSA,” explained Coach Platt, “because they are not going to let you do that. You tell the guys there is a difference between holding a lead and being tied.”
BSM’s Carter Eckerline scores the Red Knights second goal.
Not only did the team end up holding their lead, they also added to it. In the 58th minute senior defender Paul Graupner sent in another long throw into the box. This time Benilde-St. Margaret’s found the back of the net much simpler than the last goal when Mulvahill headed the throw past the keeper. Now up by two goals, Coach Platt still didn’t think victory was guaranteed. “I don’t think I was relaxed until after I looked up and it was 30 sec left on the clock.”
Although the game did appear to be finished, the physical play of the game was not. By the end of the match a total of 52 fouls had been called, split evenly between the two teams, seven yellow cards had been shown and one red card was given to PSA senior Ibrahim Keita.
At the final whistle the Benilde-St. Margaret’s had captured their 5th State title in 11 seasons. PSA was deemed to be the favorites even though they were only ranked one place above Benilde-St. Margaret’s, but the players had confidence they could come out on top, “we knew we could do it, there were people who thought we were under dogs, but we really thought we could do it,” said Mulvahill.