IOWA CITY — In a matchup of state-tournament veterans versus a team on the rise, experience won out.
Iowa City West senior forward Gada Ambo scored two second-half goals as the second-ranked Trojans held off Cedar Rapids Jefferson, 4-2, in a Class 3A boys’ soccer substate final Saturday at Barker Field.
“We just worked hard,” said Ambo, a first team all-state selection last season. “They found me and I was lucky to be in the right position at the right time. We were working hard. We met their intensity.”
The victory delivers Iowa City West (16-1) — winners of 16 matches in a row since a season-opening loss to No. 4 Ankeny Centennial — to the state tournament for an incredible 19th time in the last 20 years. The Trojans’ 20th appearance overall ties them with Bettendorf and West Des Moines Valley for the most in state history.
“I think we can make it a long way,” West senior defender Joey Kuehn said. “Let’s do it.”
West jumped on Jefferson over the final 10 minutes of the first half with goals from junior midfielder Taka Oya and junior midfielder/forward Brody Schilling, who leads the Trojans with 13 scores this season.
Ambo opened the second half with a goal four minutes in that appeared to give the Trojans an insurmountable lead at 3-0, but Jefferson fought back with goals from junior Theo Habimana and senior Blaze Bouzek in a one-minute span that suddenly had the J-Hawks within 3-2 at the 47-minute mark.
The teams remained separated by one goal until Ambo calmed his team with a vital insurance goal in the 64th minute. Ambo now has 12 goals this season.
“That was all Gada,” West Coach Brad Stiles said. “He was the one who was composed and taking a few extra touches and making sure the ball was going where it needed to.”
Cedar Rapids Jefferson ends perhaps the finest season in school history at 9-6-1 and within one match of its first state-tournament appearance. The J-Hawks will return 75 percent of their goal-scoring production next season.
CLASS 3A SUBSTATE FINAL
No. 2 Iowa City West 4, Cedar Rapids Jefferson 2
Goals — CRJ: Theo Habimana (5), Blaze Bouzek (9); ICW: Gada Ambo 2 (12), Taka Oya (1), Brody Schilling (13).
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