COLUMBUS – Head coach Sean Stewart has seen a lot after nine seasons of guiding the boys soccer program at Archbold. All their hard work paid off Saturday at MAPFRE Stadium when the Blue Streaks captured a Division III state championship, 2-1, over Dayton Christian.
“It’s incredible,” said Stewart. “It’s a culmination of so many years of hard work. The program’s nine years old, and our alumni have helped to bring this program up. These players here have finished off the job in getting a state title.
“Just an incredible achievement for these boys.”
“I can’t picture a better way (to go out),” noted senior Andrew Hogrefe. “It’s incredible. I’ve dreamed of this ever since we made it to state semifinals freshman year. Can’t think of a better way with a better group of guys.”
As with many of their games this season, Archbold got on top early. Senior leader Josh Kidder swooped in from the left side, dishing to Trey Theobald, who slipped one past Warrior goalkeeper Paul Socha for a 1-0 lead three minutes in.
“It is just great being in position. Putting my teammates in positions to succeed,” said Kidder. “You’re not always gonna have to do it by yourself. Trust your teammates and trust your abilities. Good things are gonna happen.”
The Streaks did have more opportunities in the first half but they were turned away.
At the 33:45 mark, Hogrefe fired one from inside the penalty area that missed to the left.
Then, Kidder backed up Socha deep into the Warrior net on a free kick from 30 yards away, only to have the keeper haul it in. This kept the margin at one, with just over 20 minutes before halftime.
The Warriors really started to put the pressure on in the latter stages of the first half. Their attack eventually drew a penalty kick, as Noah Alexander banged it in the left corner of the net to tie the game with 11:24 to go.
Once again, Archbold would go ahead in the early stages of half number two. Just two minutes and six seconds after intermission, Hogrefe crossed a free kick to a waiting Elijah Zimmerman, who headed it in for the go-ahead score.
“If you’ve watched us this year, you know that our game plan is to go out and get the early goal,” said Stewart. “And change the game for the opponent. We were able to do that today. Dayton (Christian) is a really good team, so they came back into the game and we had to absorb some pressure. But I thought we did a good job of staying organized when we absorbed pressure. The boys just kind of gutted it out at the end.”
They pulled it out with a great performance from their defense – and keeper Noah Cheney. “Scoring an early goal, there’s always a chance the other team can come back,” said Hogrefe. “Our defense, they’ve played amazing all season. I can’t be more proud of them. They held it back there. Noah Cheney, he’s done an amazing job at goal. I am so proud of them.”
Cheney was the biggest in the final 30 seconds, when he deflected an initial shot, then fell on another to keep the Warriors off the board.
“I was everywhere,” the keeper explained of a very pressure-filled moment. “I made a mistake, I dropped the ball. But it was fine, they kicked it right into my hands. It was chaos.”
“He came up big, and we made some big blocks with our defenders too,” added Stewart. “Cheney’s been good when we’ve needed him this year. We didn’t need him a whole lot this year. Some games we didn’t need him at all. But when we need him, he is ready.”
Archbold ends the season at 22-1, with their only loss coming to Ottawa Hills in the regular season on Aug. 27. During the tournament, the Streaks knocked off three teams (Ottawa Hills, Independence, Dayton Christian) ranked higher than them in the state.
“It’s tough when you’re in the same district as Ottawa Hills to get the proper recognition sometimes,” admitted Stewart. “We were confident. We knew that we were a very good team, and that we were one of the top teams in the state, regardless of rankings. We just kept to our game and (stayed) focused on us.”
The Streaks ended the season with 148 goals scored, a mark which put them at fourth all time in Ohio – in all divisions – for goals scored in a season. It was more than any team since 1984.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010