Mayhem in Ottawa

Ben Samuelson , Writer

For the first time in school history, the Rock Island High School Boys Soccer Team won their first outright Conference Title in school history with a 1-0 win over Quincy in the 39th minute of the match. The Rocks were ecstatic to be a part of history, and appreciated to have the great soccer fans of Rock Island supporting them. However, the boys knew that winning Conference was just the beginning of what the boys could do going into the post season. “The start of the Rock Island High School Boys Soccer program dates all the way back to the start of their first season back in the 1988-1989 season,” noted Coach Rudy Almanza. “Not one team has been able to win their first ever Conference title. For it to be my first year as head coach, and make history for the program and the town of Rock Island is just really overwhelming, for not just for the team, but the entire town of Rock Island.”

The number 1 seeded Rocks traveled to Ottawa for their first Regional Semi-Finals match against Morris Community High School, where the Rocks ran all over the opposition, with 6 goals to Morris’ 1. Those 6 goals came from Peter Kimba, Jordan Rice, Migamb Athanas (2), Osvaldo Perez, and Nsengiyumva Landry. With this win, the Rocks were set to travel to Ottawa on Saturday to face the hometown Ottawa Pirates. The match was expected to have some rain, but the Rocks were prepared for everything and anything. Rock Island Forward, and Metro Pace Setter, Jordan Rice talks about what was going through his mind going into Saturday’s match, stating, “I thought about all the things Coach Almanza had told us to think about every practice to be prepared for this game. I went to my “chill place” like coach said to do. I thought about my team and I thought about making while I was there. Putting all of that positivity in my head, I think, personally, helped me perform to the best of my abilities in an important history making match.”

On that Saturday, the Regional Championship day, the Rocks make their way to Ottawa, and the rainfall that was expected to occur had begun about an hour into the trip, giving the pitch time to become wet and slick, but the Rocks were ready. The match begins. The Pirates quickly jump out to a 1-0 lead when the ball gets played behind the defense and is placed far post, and the keeper slips on the muddy terrain. Fast forward to the 33rd minute of the match when Junior Kyle Gant plays the ball up to Junior Forward, and Rock Island Argus Metro Pace Setter, Jordan Rice. The ball is flicked back into the frame of the goal, where there was nothing but green, and a net to place the ball, but no red or white shirts in sight. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, Kyle Gant comes in and finishes the ball, low and hard into the bottom corner, and the teams tied at 1-1. “I knew I had to come into the game with the same intensity as the starters for the game. We were down 1-0 at the start, so the only thing that was going through my head at the time was take shots. I was substituted in, and a couple of minutes in, I got my chance. Originally, I was trying to get the ball to Jordan Rice for him to shoot, but the ball bounced back into the box perfectly for me to shoot. It went in and a weight was lifted off everyone’s shoulders. The rest is history,” Gant stated.  Just 40 seconds later, the Rocks found some fire power, and senior Isaac Almanza knocks a rocket of a free kick into the bottom left corner, and the Rocks go up 2-1. The Pirates were able to answer back and draw the score to 2 a piece.

With 38 minutes left in the game, the game is stopped for a short period of time so the field supervisor could put some dirt from the baseball diamond down on the mud spots of both goals, seeing that they both were quite muddy. With about 19 minutes left in the game, the ball goes out for a goal kick. The opposing goalkeeper complains about the conditions of his box, even though Rocky’s keeper, Ben Samuelson had to overcome the slipperiness of the terrain throughout the full 40 minutes of the first half. After agreeing with the goalkeeper, talking with the coaches, ADs, and trainers of both teams, the main official decided to call the game with about 19 minutes to go, even though both trainers declared was safe to continue play. Both teams were to come back and play the last 19 minutes of the match at a neutral site, which took place LaSalle, Illinois. Senior Midfielder and Captain Ceu Bik Lian expressed his opinions on what he believes could’ve been done to prevent this beforehand, stating, “To prevent this from happening in the future, there should be a field and weather check to make sure both conditions are safe to play in.” Senior Goalkeeper Michael Machuca states what he believed the team needed to do to overcome this obstacle, explaining “We should have capitalized on our opportunities when we all knew the keeper wasn’t as good as we made him look.” 

Fast forward to Monday in LaSalle, IL, scoreless at the end of regulation, and the teams are forced to settle in overtime. After a scoreless first half of overtime, sophomore Alejandro Torres finds the goalie’s near post, and the Rocks go up 3-2. For the next 8 minutes of the half, it was up to the defense, made up of Osvaldo Perez, Peter Kimba, Edwin Beltran, Zack Beckman, and the goalkeeper Ben Samuelson to keep the Pirates out of the box, and hopefully set up the attackers for another opportunity on goal. With 1 minute  left, the Pirates had an opportunity on goal, but the defense prevailed and the Rocks went on to win their first Regional Championship in school history in a 3-2 win over the Pirates. “It feels really good,” noted Alejandro Torres. “We’ve been working hard this season, and to be able to score and win for my team and Rock Town was quite the overwhelming feeling.” The Rocks went on to fall to Dunlap High School in the Sectional semifinals 4-3 in double-overtime, but still had an amazing season.