West Noble claimed its first-ever boys soccer sectional championship Saturday afternoon in Emma with a 6-1 triumph over defending champ Lakeland.
The Chargers, who lost to the Lakers, 2-1 in last year’s sectional decider at Westview, will carry a 14-4-1 record into the Class 1A regional tournament this week at Garrett. West Noble faces Lakewood Park Thursday at 5 p.m. in the first semifinal match, followed by the clash between Fort Wayne Canterbury and Fort Wayne Luers. The finals are set for Saturday at 12 noon.
Lakeland jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a powerful left-footed shot by Sammy Garcia with 9:42 gone in the match. Marco Olivares registered an assist on the tally.
“Getting the lead early was something we talked about before the match,” said Laker head coach Jesse Ward. “But we knew we weren’t going to possess the ball more than West Noble and that our defense and keeper would have to come up big.”
The Chargers were relentless on their attack of the Lakeland net and their efforts finally paid off at the 20:19 mark when Uriel Macias converted a crossing pass from Abel Zamarripa into the tying goal. Just two minutes later, Macias again sliced through the Laker defense to boot home an unassisted goal to put West Noble ahead to stay.
But Macias wasn’t done. Late in the first half, Zamarripa rocketed a shot off the crossbar. Macias swooped in to head the rebound past Laker goalie Luis Gutierrez to give the Chargers a 3-1 cushion.
“We made too many mistakes to beat a good team like West Noble,” Ward stated.
The Chargers continued to dominate play in the second half, rarely allowing the Lakers to carry the ball near keeper Emanuel Ibanez. Two goals by Jose Acevedo and another by Zamarripa in the latter stages of the second half salted away the West Noble victory.
Gutierrez finished with nine saves in the match to six for Ibanez.
“It’s been a great year,” said Ward when asked to reflect on his team’s 12-6-1 campaign. “We received tremendous leadership from our seniors (Gutierrez, Dylan Gust, Carlos Albor, Alfredo Nieves, Hernan Duran) and junior captain Dustin Cunningham after getting off to a slow start. They helped turn the season around.”