MARION — The Cedar Rapids Jefferson boys’ soccer team has recently devoted practice time to improving its headers.
The preparation paid off in a big way Friday night at Linn-Mar High School.
“I saw the ball and I heard my friend Alex (Maldonado) say, ‘Go head the ball,’” Jefferson junior forward Theo Habimana said with a laugh after his header in the first minute of overtime gave the J-Hawks a 2-1 victory over Linn-Mar in a Mississippi Valley Conference match. “If I didn’t head it, he would have beat me up after the game. So when I headed the ball, I was like, ‘Yeah, this is going in.’”
The win was the fifth in the last six matches for Jefferson (7-4, 4-2 MVC), which has already equaled its win total from last season. Dating back to last season, the J-Hawks have won 13 of their last 20.
With another victory this season, Jefferson would have the most wins and clinch its first winning season since the 2012 team finished 9-7.
“In terms of the way we’ve won our games this year, this is the first time in a long time that we have had a lot of success,” said Jefferson Coach John O’Connor, who has led the J-Hawks for 19 seasons. “Our team has been able to deal with going down, having a team match us, being able to go back and not just get disappointed by the fact that something doesn’t go our way at one point in the game.”
After Jefferson senior defender Augustine Baraka got the scoring started with a goal in the 20th minute, Linn-Mar (4-11, 2-4) matched it shortly after halftime when a free kick from senior Mohamed Tawfik ricocheted off a Jefferson player and into the goal.
Baraka is second with five goals this season for Jefferson behind senior midfielder Blaze Bouzek, who has posted a team-high six goals and 11 assists.
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Jefferson closes the regular season with home games against Class 3A No. 2 Iowa City West and No. 10 Cedar Rapids Kennedy before beginning substate play on May 20 with a 3A quarterfinal contest against Davenport West (7-8).
“We try to push ourselves for looking forward,” Baraka said. “See what can we do to improve ourselves.”
Cedar Rapids Jefferson 2, Linn-Mar 1 (OT)
Goals — CRJ: Augustine Baraka (5), Theo Habimana (3).
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