BOYS SOCCER: West Fargo defeats Shanley to earn state title
James Moe was concerned at the start of the season about how he could keep 17 seniors on his West Fargo boys soccer team roster happy. "There are guys who you know won't get a lot of playing time,'' Moe said. "We had so much talent in that senior...
James Moe was concerned at the start of the season about how he could keep 17 seniors on his West Fargo boys soccer team roster happy.
“There are guys who you know won’t get a lot of playing time,’’ Moe said. “We had so much talent in that senior class. And you can only put 11 guys out there. We had guys asking if they could get more playing time. We just kept telling it would come. And they were good about it.’’
Saturday, the Packers came up with a sure-fire way of keeping everyone happy - they won a state title.
West Fargo closed its season by defeating Fargo Shanley 3-1 in the title game of the North Dakota boys high school soccer tournament at Cushman Field.
The three goals were the third-most scored by a team in the state championship game and the most since Bismarck Century scored four in the 2007 final.
And it was that senior class that accounted for all the points.
West Fargo broke a scoreless deadlock in the final five minutes of the first half, scoring twice despite going into the wind.
James Collins put the Packers on the scoreboard first. Akeem Smith was the playmaker, penetrating on the left baseline and centering a pass in the box to Collins, who finished with 4:47 left in the half.
Smith made it 2-0 at the 37:32 mark. He used a nice ballhandling move to get open on the left side, then buried a shot into the opposite side of the net.
“I just wanted to see us get the ball in the net,’’ said Smith, who had four of the Packers’ 10 goals in the state tournament. “My job is to take things into my own hands. Mostly, I score. But I feel good about that pass. That got us going.’’
Said Moe: “He (Smith) is the man. That was huge, not only the goal but his assist. And his timing was beautiful.’’
Another senior-to-senior combination made it 3-0 when Zach Burtsfield scored off a Matt Zent assist with 15:47 left in the game.
“We all wanted one thing - to win a state tournament before we graduated,’’ Smith said. “We were here last year and finished fourth. We had to win now; there’s no next year for us seniors.’’
Shanley avoided the shutout when Matt Wolbaum put in a header with 7:57 left to play.
Shanley’s other best scoring opportunities were from long range in the first half, when the Deacons hit the crossbar on one attempt and were just above the bar on a free kick.
“We had tons of free-kick opportunities in the first half,’’ Shanley coach Michael Breker said. “We were wasteful with our opportunities.
“If it had been even 1-0 at halftime, we’d have had more confidence. It’s North Dakota; we’re used to playing into the wind. But they’re one of the few teams around that could out-muscle us, and they’re so skilled with the ball.’’
West Fargo, which finished 13-3-4, won the program’s second state title. The previous one came in 2010. Shanley, 15-3-2, was denied in its bid for a second championship. It was the second time in three seasons that the Deacons lost in the state final.
“These kids worked so hard,’’ Moe said. “You can’t finish a season any better than this.’’