Prep Soccer

Undefeated Marion boys' soccer opens state tournament with electric victory

Goal by sophomore Jaffer Murphy with 1:37 left beats Newton, 5-4, in state quarterfinal

DES MOINES — The Marion boys’ soccer team already knows what it is like to be one-and-done at state.

A year after being bounced as state-tournament rookies, the Indians had what proved to be an important talk on the bus ride to Des Moines before another state quarterfinal.

“We were just thinking about last year and how we were all just very disappointed for all that hard work we had last year to go to state and get out first round,” sophomore Jaffer Murphy said after scoring the game-winning goal with 1:37 left in a Class 2A state quarterfinal game as undefeated Marion won a state tournament game for the first time in school history, 5-4, over Newton Thursday at Cownie Soccer Park. “So we all just decided as one that we were going to go past the first round.”

The win streak is now a school-record 16 games for Marion (16-0), but it was not without a stern challenge as the Indians surrendered more than one goal for just the second time this season.

“They were really fast,” said Marion goalkeeper Carson Gorton, who had only allowed eight goals coming into the state tournament. “Our defenders are strong and physical, but sometimes against players as speedy as that, there is nothing they can do and it is on me.”

Gorton and the Indians breathed deeply after the game with the knowledge that they surrendered their highest goal total of the season in a crucial game and still prevailed.

“It was all about survival in the end,” said Marion Coach Marco Fichtner, who has led the Indians to the state tournament in each of his two seasons at the helm. “I guess that is the experience from last year, because we just didn’t quit.”

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Freshman Levi Murphy got the Indians on the scoreboard with a goal in the opening minutes. After Newton took a 2-1 lead with consecutive goals in a span of five minutes midway through the first half, Marion regrouped. Freshman Sam Murphy scored a crucial game-tying goal with just 2:16 left in the first half, which made the halftime huddle a confident assembly.

“We were already in a good mood,” Sam Murphy said. “We just needed someone to start us up again and get us running.”

Less than five minutes into the second half, Sam Murphy gave the Indians a brief 3-2 lead with his 11th goal of the season, which ranks third on the team behind brothers Jaffer and Levi Murphy.

The teams each traded a pair of goals over the final 15-plus minutes. A penalty-kick conversion by senior Zach Combs, his second goal of the game and sixth of the season, tied the game at 3-3 for Newton. Less than five minutes later, Marion reclaimed the lead with the second goal of the game from Levi Murphy.

“It was just our never-quit mentality and our resiliency,” said senior Alex Whalen, who posted three assists for Marion. “To have a team fire back at us, give a ton of credit to Newton. They had an answer for everything.”

Eventually, Newton (14-6) just ran out of time. The Cardinals tied the game for the third time at 4-4 with 2:16 left on a goal by senior Matthew Yeager, his second of the game and team-best 27th this season.

It took Jaffer Murphy and Marion just 39 seconds to respond with the game-winner after an assist from his brother, Sam Murphy.

“The ball comes through, I see it right there,” Jaffer Murphy said. “An easy tap into the back of the net and I’m just screaming in my head because I knew we won the game.”

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Senior Josiah Smith also posted an assist for Marion, which will face second-seeded Storm Lake (17-0) in a state semifinal pitting unbeaten teams Friday at 2:35.

“I feel like we’re all going to be hyped from this game,” Jaffer Murphy said. “That momentum, we’re going to take into next game and do even better than we did today.”

Boys’ soccer

CLASS 2A STATE QUARTERFINAL

At Des Moines

No. 3 Marion 5, No. 6 Newton 4

Goals — NEW: Matthew Yeager 2 (27), Zach Combs 2 (6); MAR: Levi Murphy 2 (14), Sam Murphy 2 (11), Jaffer Murphy 1 (22).

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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