By Scott Prater
Schriever FC outlasted Rocky Mountain United 5-4 on penalty kicks to claim the Colorado Springs Soccer Club Men’s Division III championship and complete a 13-win season May 17 at St. Mary’s stadium.
Twice before, RMU had attempted to knock Schriever Football Club from its perch atop the Division III standings, and twice it had failed. May 17 brought a third and final attempt, and for most of the game it seemed RMU might finally achieve revenge. Answers were provided for every one of SFC’s three goals, the final one forcing the game into an all-deciding penalty-kick shootout.
One-by-one, RMU players countered each SFC goal, but on their final attempt, SFC goalkeeper Jeremy Edwards stood ready near the left post of his net, daring his opponent to score on the right side. Just as the RMU player made contact with the ball, Edwards leaped right, and fully extended, snatched the ball out of the air, sealing the championship victory for SFC.
As his teammates erupted in celebration, Edwards thought of the long season his team just completed.
“The team did everything needed to win and I felt like I had to make up for the third goal RMU scored which sent the game into overtime,” Edwards said. “It felt great to finally help the team, because our defense made my job easy all season.”
Considering SFC had allowed three goals during regulation, it may have seemed that offense dominated play. But not so, according to SFC assistant coach Daniel Bava.
“You could say that our defense was strong,” Bava said. “Josh Pearsall is playing his fourth consecutive year of backlining our defense and Jeremy (Edwards) held the attacking RMU offense away for most of the game. Their goals came by way of counter attacks, usually after we had just taken a shot on their goal.”
Ben Kissell gave SFC the lead 15 minutes in with a 25-yard shot into the upper left corner of the net. With the teams tied at 1-1 just before halftime, Nathan Johnson put SFC back in front.
Johnson controlled a pass inside his opponents’ 18-yard box. As the RMU goalie appeared to take every angle away, Johnson booted a shot from the left side and beat the RMU goalkeeper to the near post.
The lead wouldn’t last however, as RMU answered again early in the second half.
As the taut, aggressive, physical game drew late into in the second half, Luke Zimmerman provided SFC with another go-ahead goal. His graceful overhead-volley shot froze the RMU keeper and gave SFC a 3-2 lead with 10 minutes to play.
But in the repetitive theme of the day, RMU scored the equalizing goal five minutes later, sending the game into the penalty-kick phase.
During the PK phase each team selects five players to take a shot against the opposing goal keeper. The team that finishes the PK phase with more goals… wins.
This feature places more pressure on the goalkeeper because the shooters are allowed to take a point-blank, unimpeded shot at the goal from 12 yards out.
Zimmerman, Johnson, Peter Santaularia, David Gapper and Reyes Soltero all scored on their PK chances. Though Edwards came close to stopping RMU’s third shot, the ball squeaked in. So the game came down to one shot, where Edwards was forced to make one final play.
“Spider man (Edwards) had all the pressure on him and he needed to stop at least one to give us the championship,” co-head coach Reyes Soltero said.
Soltero thanked Schriever Fitness Center Director Seth Cannello, Schriever Sports Director Ed Molloy and 50th Space Wing Commander Col. Cary Chun for their support of the team.
“The team started the season off very rough but through the progression of the fall and the spring seasons and our continued hard play against the opposing teams, we became a cohesive unit,” Soltero said. “We all learned to play well together and with our continued dedication to playing good soccer, the team will be able to compete with Division II teams for the championship next year. Thanks to all the players for a great season.”