ST. CLOUD – Anoka boys' soccer an underdog? That dog no longer hunts.
A 2-1 comeback victory Thursday over East Ridge made the Tornadoes the first repeat champion since Apple Valley in 2009-2010. Anoka won its third title in nine seasons.
The Tornadoes (17-3-2) did it in improbable fashion, coming back from a 1-0 halftime deficit and playing much of the second half while down a player due to an ejection. Finding a way, coach Pete Hayes said, had little to do with the horseshoe in assistant coach Todd Springer's possession.
"You have to have a good soccer club and we have that," Hayes said. "We have a lot of good players with a lot of heart and desire. They know how to get it done."
East Ridge (15-3-3) took a 1-0 lead into halftime on a goal by Nathan Casas.
Anoka rallied despite unusual circumstances. First, Donnie Guimont tied the game on a penalty kick in the 42nd minute. About one minute later he got ejected for dissent. That meant Anoka was forced to play a man down for much of the second half.
"We needed to step it up a ton and everyone did," Anoka junior Blake Doyea said.
Leading by example, Doyea scored in the 47th minute for a 2-1 lead that provided a huge lift.
"It was a great cross and I just got my head on it," Doyea said. "Their keeper fumbled it a little bit and it went in. I was surprised; I was so happy."
East Ridge stayed aggressive, outshooting Anoka 8-3 in the second half and 16-8 for the game. But the Raptors ended the season in gut-punch fashion at the state tournament for the second consecutive year. East Ridge coach Anthony Bidwell declined to comment to reporters after the game.
For Anoka senior sweeper Ben Verkuilen, who watched the 2007 Anoka title team as an elementary school student, adding to a championship legacy was a dream realized.
"People have been taking us lightly and I'm not sure why," Verkuilen said. "Going into this, Coach Hayes said how East Ridge thought we were living a lie and how they got robbed last year. But we showed up."