Falcons net section title
STOCKTON – Forest Lake Christian’s Ryan McQuerry scored the most important goal of his career – and maybe school history – in the Falcons’ Sac-Joaquin Section Division V boys soccer tournament final with Le Grand Saturday.
The senior midfielder had missed FLC’s final 10 regular matches with severely strained ligaments in his right ankle and played limited minutes in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
But at University of the Pacific, Saturday, McQuerry tapped in the match-winner off a Dane Johnson assist with 27 seconds left in the first overtime period, lifting the Falcons to their third section title in the last six years – and first since 1998 – with a 2-1 win.
“I didn’t have time to think. I just saw a gap in front of me and (Dane) passed it right through. I just touched it through,” McQuerry said. “When I strained the ligaments five weeks ago, I pretty much thought the season was over for me. But when we made it to the playoffs, my physical therapist cleared me to play. I can’t think of a better way to end my high school career.”
FLC head coach Thad Kopec, who took over the Falcon boys soccer program in 1981, was emotional after the win.
“The first two titles were big, but this (one is the biggest),” he said. “Nobody thought we were going to make it this far. We were lucky to win the league championship, then (in the semifinals) last Thursday we pull out a 1-0 win in overtime.”
“And you look at this game and LeGrand dominated totally in the first half. They had 15 shots (on goal) and some of them were point blank. They had shots go off the crossbar, off the posts. It was the Lord today.”
While LeGrand’s forwards dribbled at will in the box for most of the match, they only managed to sneak a single score past FLC’s goalkeeper Joe Martin.
Martin, a sophomore, put on a clinic between the pipes in a 1-0 overtime homefield win over Central Catholic (Modesto) in the semifinals. But he saved his best for last with 23 saves against last season’s Division IV champs.
“Joe had an amazing game,” said Kyle Smith, the Falcons’ leading scorer. “I don’t know what he ate for breakfast, but it worked.”
LeGrand’s forwards put the pressure on FLC’s defense from the opening whistle.
Martin, along with defenders Jared Fore and Eric Clough, saved the Falcons’ bacon on more than one occasion with a series of individual plays. Jose Seja put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard with a solo goal from short range with four minutes left in the first half.
“After they scored, we came to the middle of the field and said we needed to take our time. We had to stay calm and just pass the ball,” Smith said.
FLC’s strategy paid off with just under three minutes left in the match.
The Falcons were on attack, when Johnson, who knocked in the match-winner against Central Catholic three days before, was in the middle of crowd with the ball at his feet in front of LeGrand’s goal.
His shot caromed off a Bulldog defender, then found the back of the net to tie the score at 1-1.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Smith said. “Before the season, I thought we might finish third or maybe second in the league because we lost 11 seniors (and the league MVP) from last year’s team, but everybody pulled together and we did it.”
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