CEDAR RAPIDS - Two of the state's most prolific goal scorers met in the semifinal round of the Class 3A Substate 3 boys' soccer tournament, but only one is moving on.
Seventh-ranked Cedar Rapids Kennedy cashed in on a defensive miscue by Marshalltown midway through the first half and 3A's leading goal scorer tacked on an insurance tally by penalty kick in the second half, ousting the Bobcats 2-0 in Wednesday's match at Kingston Stadium.
The Cougars eliminated Marshalltown from last year's postseason in the same round, by a 1-0 overtime decision on the same pitch.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Marshalltown freshman forward Martin Chavarria, above, fires a shot toward the goal between Cedar Rapids Kennedy defenders Riley Galbraith (7) and Shane Glenn (10) during the early stages of Wednesday’s Class 3A Substate 3 semifinal match at Kingston Stadium in Cedar Rapids.
"It gets a little old after a while," grinned MHS head coach Craig Marshall. "I keep thinking one of these years we'll at least get to the final."
Marshalltown's last advancement to the substate final came two years ago when Waterloo West qualified for the state tournament with a 1-0 victory in Cedar Falls, but consecutive postseason losses to Kennedy come to the forefront of insufferable substate setbacks in Marshall's eyes.
"You see the other side of things, the teams on the other side of our bracket are not as strong, so you'd like to get that chance," he said. "We've got a young team, we'll be in this position again next year I'm sure."
The Bobcats (10-8) had limited chances to break through on the scoreboard in what turned out to be just their third shutout loss of the spring. Playing with the wind at their backs in the first half, the 'Cats nearly notched the ice-breaker on Martin Chavarria's rolling right-foot shot from 25 yards out. The looping shot tumbled just enough for Kennedy goalkeeper Ben Feltes to make a leaping save, punching the ball over the crossbar during the 14th minute.
Chavarria, a freshman forward for MHS, entered the night third in 3A goal scoring with 24 tallies.
Six minutes later, the Cougars (13-5) found the back of the net. Playing into the wind, a long cross from the right forward position played back just outside the penalty area, and Bobcat defender Jose Armenta's header bounced straight up into the air.
It came down at the feet of sophomore reserve forward Cam Milks, who checked into the game only moments before burying his team's first shot on goal for a 1-0 lead.
"We didn't head it clear and then lost track of it is what I think happened," Marshall said. "We didn't get a clear head on it, it went straight up in the air and we just lost track of where the ball was. Their forward was where he was should have been, and he did what he should have done."
The remainder of Marshalltown's shots came from at least 20 yards out, including Josh Illum's blast that sailed just wide of the right upper 90 with 13 minutes left in the first half.
Bobcat freshman keeper Kreighton Miller made a pair of impressive saves in the second half, but was unable to stop Kennedy senior Garet Christianson from the penalty spot. A foul was whistled on an MHS defender inside the goal area, leading to Christianson's Class 3A-leading 26th goal of the season and a 2-0 Cougar advantage with 22:46 left in regulation.
"The penalty kick killed us," said Marshall. "Once that happened, getting out of that hole was going to be tough. One goal you can come back, but two against a team like that's really tough.
"We created a few chances but we didn't have a lot tonight. They played very sound defense and we didn't crack it very well. That's why they're ranked seventh and we're not."
The shutout win was the seventh of the season, too, for the Cougars. Kennedy will meet Cedar Falls at noon Saturday back at Kingston Stadium in hopes of making back-to-back runs to state. Kennedy walloped the Tigers in their regular-season match, 4-0.
"We knew they were going to be a good side, they're a good team," Marshall said of Kennedy. "We talked about having to control the midfield and they just did a good job of beating us in the middle and that was the difference in the first half.
"We did a better job of it in the second half, but it wasn't until the very end of the game we started to get our rhythm."
The Bobcats' last shot on goal came in the 64th minute, when a built attack played back to junior midfielder Tyler Cruikshank. He collected and fired a rolling left-footer that skipped across Kingston's artificial turf before being collected by Feltes.
Seven seniors played their final games in a Bobcat uniform: Jesus Sanchez-Fuentes, Corey Macmillan, Josue Avila, Lucio Gutierrez, Michael Burgos, Illum and Armenta.
"There's some good leadership there, and it's always hard to say goodbye to seniors," Marshall said. "This has been a good group, it's been three years for some of them so it's hard to have to see them go."