Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka's state title streak in the adapted soccer physically impaired division — which stretches back to 2008, will some day end — coach Marcus Onsum told his players during halftime of their championship game Saturday against Anoka-Hennepin.
"Today doesn't have to be that day," Onsum said. "That was the theme we discussed, and these players proved it to be true."
The Robins (8-1) battled back from an early game, one-goal deficit in their 2-1 victory over the Mustangs at Stillwater High School to win their seventh consecutive state title. It was the sweetest of the four titles that senior Jeremy Jost has experienced.
"Every year we come in with some new players and some returning players, but we work our hardest to get back to this game," said Jost, who had an assist in the victory.
Anoka-Hennepin (7-2) took the lead at 18:20 of the first half on a goal by ninth-grader Tyler Ezell. The Robins rebounded quickly and tied the game at 17:25 on the first of two goals by Chaun Johnson.
The conference rivals' only losses in the regular season came at the hands of one another. They began the second half tied 1-1 and it remained that way until Johnson, a sophomore who led his team in scoring this year, netted what would become the game winner at the 9-minute mark.
The Robins outshot the Mustangs 21-17. Anoka-Hennepin goalie Joe Manion made several game-saving stops, which Onsum said made the "rubber match" that much more exciting.
"(Manion) has absolutely been on fire for them all year long, and we didn't expect anything different today between two really evenly matched teams," Onsum said. "We feel fortunate to come away with the win, but I am as proud as can be for the way our team battled."
First state title since 1998
In a game that would require an overtime session to determine a winner, South Washington County bested Dakota United 3-2 in overtime to claim its first state title since 1998 in the cognitively impaired division.
Although the Thunderbolts (11-1) were outshot in both halves and in overtime, first-year goalie Marcus Hathaway made several diving saves throughout the game. His efforts were rewarded at 5:05 in overtime when ninth-grader Bryce Smith netted the game-winner on an unassisted rebound.
"I was pretty nervous, especially in those last few minutes (of regulation)," Hathaway said. "Bryce's goal to win it was awesome."
The Hawks (8-3) scored first at 19:32 in the first half on Carl Fagre's unassisted goal. Thunderbolts forward Tristan Rankin tied the game just four minutes later with an unassisted goal.
Dakota United regained the lead on Fagre's second goal of the game at 15:00 in second half. Smith scored his first goal of the game for the Hawks at 10:55. The game remained tied 2-2 heading into overtime before Smith scored.
"Defense and putting our goal scorers in position to make plays was the key," Thunderbolts coach John Culbertson said.