With about nine minutes remaining in the state championship game, Ben Schmitz made himself heard.
The junior defenseman screamed toward the Anoka-Hennepin fans, imploring them to start a “Let’s Go Mustangs” chant. The crowd obliged, and the Mustangs — playing in the adapted soccer physically impaired division — fed off the energy en route to a 2-0 victory over defending champion Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka at Stillwater Area High School.
“They were fired up for this game,” coach Sue Opatz said. “They wanted it bad.”
The Mustangs’ desire showed. Junior goaltender Joey Manion let out multiple screams throughout the match, firing up his teammates. Kai France, a junior forward, played with as much energy as anyone on defense. And after sophomore midfielder Tyler Ezell scored each of his two goals, he sprinted toward center court smiling and celebrating with teammates.
“It felt amazing,” Ezell said. “I don’t really know how to say it.”
The top-seeded Mustangs, who had bested the Robins twice this season, were in control for much of Saturday’s game. Still, the victory had the feel of an upset. Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka had won seven consecutive state titles entering the game, including last year’s 2-1 title game against the Mustangs.
“It feels like vengeance because we lost to them last year, but then we came back and played our game,” Ezell said.
Holding a 2-0 lead with 2:33 remaining in the contest, Schmitz huddled with his teammates, telling them, “We’ve got to dig deep.” That’s exactly what the Mustangs did as they held off the defending champions for their first title since 2007.
“He’s never shied away from a leadership position,” Opat said of Schmitz. “They were really disappointed when we lost 2-1 last year, so this year they’re feeling good, and I’m feeling good. It’s pretty awesome.”
Tied 0-0 late in the adapted soccer state championship for the cognitively impaired division, Park Center coach Kelli Waalk had seen enough. With no reserve players available, she could tell that her team was running out of energy so she put talented goalie Phillip Worzie at forward.
The substitution worked. Five minutes into overtime, Worzie sent a ball rolling past North Suburban goalie Johnny Caliendo to give the Pirates a 1-0 victory for the state title.
“I know my kids were tired but we kept on saying, ‘Five more minutes. Five more minutes,’ ” Waalk said. “They came through with it.”
Worzie was a game-changer in net before switching to forward even though goalie isn’t his natural position. The freshman scored 53 goals for the Pirates this season and filled in at goalie when the team lost its starting netminder on Friday.
“To play goalie, it was good and bad,” Worzie said. “[But] it feels great.”
Caliendo, a junior, deterred the Pirates for the majority of the game, but Worzie found a way to finally break through.
“That was our hope,” Waalk said, “That he could get the ball around and do his magic.”