CEDAR RAPIDS — Trailing in the second half on the road against a team with state-tournament experience has spelled doom in recent years for the Cedar Rapids Kennedy boys’ soccer team.
Not this year. Not this team.
“We have been talking a lot this past week about how they have said the right words and now it is time to follow them up,” Kennedy Coach Adrian Evans after the No. 9 Cougars rallied past No. 15 Cedar Rapids Prairie, 2-1, in a Class 3A substate final Saturday at John Wall Field. “Credit to Prairie. They are just a team that came out and played so hard. It is always good and fun to have an in-city rivalry. Those are the best kind of games to coach. … I think we kind of proved that this is a special group.”
The victory sends Kennedy (11-3-1) to the state tournament for the first time since 2013, its ninth berth overall in school history.
The Class 3A state tournament begins Thursday at Cownie Soccer Park in Des Moines.
“This is everything for the program,” Kennedy junior captain and top defender Curtis Ratzer said. “We have been working for this for the past three years. I have been a part of two substate-final losses. The year before that, when I was an eighth-grader, they lost in the substate final. This is for us as the players, parents for taking us to everything, the school. We just want to get Kennedy back on the board. We want respect.”
After a scoreless first half, Prairie senior Jayce Smith sent a long free kick toward the Kennedy goal in the 45th minute that deflected off the hands of the Kennedy goalkeeper. Prairie sophomore Aidan Lerch was there to punch it in, his fourth goal this season.
Kennedy tied the match at 1-1 nine minutes later when Marquette commit Alan Kim delivered his own long free kick from 75 feet away that curled into the upper right corner of the goal beyond the outstretched Prairie keeper for his team-high 12th goal this season.
“We knew we had good players,” Kennedy sophomore Ombeni Mubake said. “We depended on the players. We knew everybody would do their part.”
The match was tied for less than two minutes until Mubake emerged from a scrum in front of the goal behind the Prairie keeper and managed to find an open slot for the go-ahead goal.
“It was in the right moment and I had it,” said Mubake, who has six goals this season. “I was just waiting for it to get right there so I could take the shot. I am a righty, so I was waiting for right, but it came left. So I just took it.”
After reaching the state tournament in three of the last four years, Prairie ends its season one match short at 11-7.
Kennedy enters the state tournament with just one loss in its last 11 matches.
“We have proven this year we can compete as a team,” Ratzer said. “We know that we have got players that can make plays. As long as we stay together as team, we work together, we know we can do some things.”
CLASS 3A SUBSTATE FINAL
At John Wall Field
No. 9 Cedar Rapids Kennedy 2, No. 15 Cedar Rapids Prairie 1
Goals — CRK: Alan Kim (12), Ombeni Mubake (6); CRP: Aidan Lerch (4).
l Comments: email@example.com