116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — The players of Cedar Rapids Xavier’s redeem team didn’t simply win the trophy they’ve coveted since June 4, 2019.
They earned it without even giving up a goal.
“This is the result of hard work,” Xavier goalkeeper Carson Jeffery said.
Saturday was the culmination of a two-year mission, a 2-0 win over No. 6 Bondurant-Farrar in the Class 2A final at Cownie Soccer Park delivering the No. 1-ranked Saints their eighth boys’ state soccer title.
It comes two years after a top-ranked Xavier team lost in the final, and a year after what was to be the redeem team didn’t get that chance after the pandemic canceled the season.
“Believe me,” Xavier Coach Amir Hadzic said, “the last ticks of the clock I was thinking of all the seniors from last year. I said, ‘guys, this is for you.’”
Some graduates of the 2020 class were in attendance Saturday to watch the Saints (15-5), who shut out Marion, 1-0, and Adel ADM, 2-0, in the first two rounds.
Jeffery, a freshman on the 2019 team, had to watch from the sideline for 14 minutes, leaving the game early in the first half after a collision in the box.
So, Lincoln Oakley, a former goalkeeper himself, grabbed a pinny and gloves from the bench and took over. He did so with a message to his somewhat-shaky teammates: “Hey everyone! Chill out! We’re fine,” he shouted.
He was right.
Once Jeffery returned, Oakley moved back to striker and promptly scored the opening goal in the 26th minute, turning in a corner kick from Ren Schroud.
“I was talking to a lot of guys on the bus before the game and they were like, ‘I’m so nervous, I’m so nervous.’ I’m just like, ‘guys, it’s a normal soccer game,’” Schroud said. “So the nerves were definitely there for the guys who haven’t played on something like this stage before.”
On a 90-degree day, a water break midway through the first half was welcome. Oakley’s goal came a few minutes later.
“I think they got it under control,” Schroud said. “We calmed down, got the water break and it helped us calm down a little bit.”
The story could be complete for Schroud with Xavier’s second goal of the game. The senior midfielder found himself open at the top of the box and fired a laser to the corner of the net to make it 2-0, his first goal of the state tournament.
“That means so much to me,” said Schroud, who was named the 2A all-tournament captain. “I’ve literally been dreaming about that all week, since we started substate I was thinking, ‘man I need to get to the championship and if I score a goal there, it would just complete my high school career.’”
Oakley, Jeffery and center back Trysten Vasquez joined Schroud on the all-tournament team.
“Amir tells us over and over again that we have the depth to do this,” Jeffery said. “This is what this season’s been aiming toward. This is what we’ve deserved, for sure. It just shows where hard work goes.”