Ben Sparling fell one goal short of a hat trick but the Falcons one upped the Victory Christian Vikings for a 4-1 win in Central Valley Christian League play.
The win gave the Falcons (6-0-2) the CVCL crown for four years running with one game remaining this season. If the team would’ve lost or tied, it would’ve depended on Victory Christian (4-2-2) to lose to another team in order to be co-champions of the league.
“We had to win or tie,” Sparling said of Tuesday’s crucial match. “But tying was not an option for us. We wanted to give it our all and lay it all on the field.”
And the Falcons were tired of tying with the Vikings on the pitch. After the two teams first meeting ended 2-2 and their second meeting ended 3-3 when the Falcons had to battle back from a 3-1 deficit, Forest Lake Christian head coach Thad Kopec set a goal to beat the Vikings 5-0 in Tuesday’s matchup because he felt they were the better team.
“We should’ve won that (2-2 match),” Kopec said. “Then, we were down 3-1 in the next game. We played really well, but we gave them four scoring opportunities and they capitalized on three of them so we had to come back from that.
“But we knew we were better.”
FLC showed they were better by coming out strong in the first half against the Vikings. The Falcons simply outpaced Victory Christian, scoring two goals in the first 33 minutes to start the game.
Danny Messina got a fluke goal in the 16th minute, kicking the ball in the back of the net while Victory Christian keeper Joey Kurtz was preparing a drop kick after a save. For Messina, it was an unassisted goal that showed a bit of perserverence. Austin Maynard took an assist in stride from Taylor Bigelow, another four-year varsity player, and sliced the ball past Kurtz for the second goal of the game in the 33rd minute.
But the Falcons kept attacking in the first half, helping the team accumulate 28 shots in the game. And the heavy attack helped determine the game in many respects offensively, but defensively the Falcons still needed to fight off James Kuhle, previously tied with Sparling for most goals scored (27) in the CVCL.
Kuhle scored a fluke goal of his own, after a corner kick seemingly confused the Falcons. Kuhle dribbled his way around the box and found the back of the net before the defenseman gathered themselves.
“Their top player is an awesome player, No. 13 (Kuhle),” Kopec said. “We knew that’s what they were targeting but we neutralized him most of the game. It was a great effort by our defenders.”
The defenders fought hard in the second half after the Vikings picked up their attack, playing in their own box for the majority of the half.
“We were really tired,” Kopec said. “The first half took a lot of energy out of us.”
But the Falcons defenders played so well, it held Victory Christian to 12 shots on the day, most of them off kilter. Defender Zach Rose played aggressive, helping stop numerous Viking attacks and stealing back plenty of opportunities for the Falcons while Andrei Yahalkoysky took his fair share of shots to the back, protecting the box. With Rose and Yahalkoysky playing strong keeper Brandon Hall had a much easier day. And the Falcons shut Victory Christian out in the second half.
“I think the key is perseverence,” Rose said of the team’s defense. “We’ve had to go through so many things. Luckily, we’ve come through it together. Without them, I couldn’t do anything.”
And Sparling showed off why he’s labeled the best player for FLC, dribbling his way to two unassisted goals in the second half. Forwards Bigelow and Messina put him good position for plenty attempts to work his magic.
As the team’s scoring leader with 29 goals and a four-year letterman on the varsity, Sparling reflected on the team’s accomplishments in his time.
“This is a big victory,” Sparling said of winning the CVCL four years in a row. “I don’t know. It may be one of my most favorite athletic feats.”
JV: FLC 5, Highlands 2
Randy Van Winkle and Zach Stelzner popped in two goals each and Brandan Kaminski scored another to lead the Falcons to a 5-2 victory over Highlands.
To contact Sports Writer Zuri Berry, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4244.
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The Little League District 11 postseason is off to a hot start.