DES MOINES — Tasked with slowing the highest-scoring offense in state history, Iowa City Regina boys’ soccer coach Rick Larew opted for a simple approach.
“Just played them very tight, don’t let them turn. Contain, contain, contain,” Larew said after the top-ranked Regals defeated third-seeded Des Moines Christian, 2-1, in the Class 1A state championship game Saturday at Cownie Soccer Park. “We didn’t change anything. Just played the way we always play. Contain, contain, contain. It’s contain, communicate and clear the ball effectively. We’re a pretty simple team.”
Not much is simple about the dynastic level of success Regina has celebrated over the past decade-plus. The Regals have the longest active streak of state tournament berths (11) and have never lost a state championship game in seven appearances.
The state title is the seventh in 10 years for Regina. Seven boys’ soccer state championships ties the Regals with Cedar Rapids Xavier for second-most in state history across all classes. Only Iowa City West (9) has more.
“We have a great coaching staff,” Regina freshman Alec Wick said. “It helps us a lot. We have great club players coming in from ISC (Iowa Soccer Club) and (Iowa City) Alliance (Soccer Club). It’s just great.”
In his first appearance in a state championship game, Wick was the offensive catalyst for Regina (18-3). Wick opened the scoring with a strike in the 32nd minute. The advantage lasted less than three minutes, as Des Moines Christian senior Ben Webster converted a penalty-kick attempt to tie the game just before halftime.
For Webster, it was his state-best 61st goal of the season, which is one less than the single-season state record set last year by Marcos Vila of Iowa Falls-Alden/AGWSR.
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It ended up being the last score of the season for Webster and Des Moines Christian, which broke the Iowa high school team scoring record with 130 goals this season, also set in 2017 by Iowa Falls-Alden/AGWSR.
“They were just quick, right to every touch,” Webster said. “Every time we’d get the ball, it seemed like they had a defender right on our backs.”
Regina had an opportunity to take the lead in the 50th minute when senior Tony Huang was fouled in the Des Moines Christian penalty box, which set up a penalty-kick opportunity for senior Nick Pechous.
The Loras signee drilled the ball towards the left side of the goal, but Des Moines Christian goalkeeper Josh Swanson guessed correctly and made the stop.
“We were playing well the whole game,” said Pechous, who was named captain of the 1A all-tournament team. “Having great looks offensively the whole game. After I missed that PK, I wasn’t worried at all. I wasn’t mad at myself at all. He saved it. Good save, good read.”
The Regals were back on the attack in the 55th minute. Senior Mason Welter dribbled into the top-left side of the Des Moines Christian penalty box and flicked a quick pass to Wick, who flushed home his second goal of the game and 15th this season, which ties him with Pechous for the season lead.
“It feels great,” said Wick, who scored four goals overall in the state tournament. “It’s my first time, but I feel like I’ve been here before.”
Regina managed to hold the lead over the final 25 minutes thanks to some staunch defenders and an impenetrable goalkeeper in sophomore Josh Dutchik.
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“It was rough, because their offense is really good,” defender Max Petersen said. “Best in the state, probably. We just passed the man off, kept focused and made sure everybody was marked.”
Dutchik posted a couple of crucial late saves. His snare of a free-kick attempt in the 58th minute, coupled with a final stop with 24 seconds left, preserved the Regina state championship. Dutchik and the Regals knew little about the Des Moines Christian offense until a scouting meeting the night before the title game.
“We learned each of their star players and worked hard to shut them down,” Dutchik said. “Make sure they couldn’t get a goal. We spent about a couple of hours on film just learning about them, finding their best players, finding their offense and defense and finding their weakness.”
The loss snapped a 10-game win streak for Des Moines Christian (17-2), which reached the championship game for the first time in school history.
CLASS 1A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 1 Iowa City Regina 2, No. 3 Des Moines Christian 1
Goals — DMC: Ben Webster 1 (61); ICR: Alec Wick 2 (15).
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