By Susan Harman
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – City High players showed no outward emotion when their substate final game against Pleasant Valley concluded with a 1-0 victory. No jumping into each others arms or fist pumps or tearing off their jersey tops and racing around the field.
And the reason Spartans coach Corbin Stone gave for the final result provided insight into the Little Hawks’ approach.
“We have one player on this team that’s been to a substate final,” Stone said. “One. The difference in this game: they’ve been to the state tournament multiple times. “That was the difference in the game: their level of experience. Not making dumb mistakes. Fouling at the right time and on the right places on the field. And us not capitalizing on the chances we had.”
City High (16-3) advanced to its sixth consecutive (11th overall) boys state soccer tournament in Des Moines and will play a quarterfinal on Thursday against Ames (14-3) at 5:05 p.m. at Cownie Soccer Park. The Spartans, who were runners-up in the Mississippi Athletic Conference, ended their season 16-4.
The winning goal came in the 16th minute on a cross from the left side by Cameron Chavez to a charging John Clark, who booted the ball into the net. Clark said the play is something they’ve been working on to avoid a jammed up middle.
“I saw Cameron going, and I knew he’s left-footed and can easily play that ball,” Clark said. “It was just a perfect ball, and I was there.
“Whenever he’s in he has everything moving. He’s just like the last piece of the puzzle. He’s always touching the ball; he’s always moving the ball.”
Chavez had just come into the game before delivering the key pass and had one thing in mind.
“I was just thinking about getting a goal,” Chavez joked.
“We had a talk before the game and (City coach Jose Fajardo) said he was going to keep me out for a little bit and get them used to the outside mids, and I come in and my job is to pass the ball, get the ball moving.
“It’s just movement of the ball. Move the ball quick. If we play quick and get the ball moving we can accomplish anything.”
Fajardo joked that inserting Chavez was a great move by the coach, but it was part of a plan hatched before the game to substitute Chavez and Rasmus Schlutter at the same time on both wings.
“I wanted them to come in fresh when the game was slowing down a bit,” Fajardo said.
City put up its ninth shutout with senior Sam Tomek in goal and a defense that prevented the Spartans from connecting on more than a couple passes at a time. Pleasant Valley had a difficult time mounting any attack from the back because of it and was limited to counters and chances off free kicks.
“Credit them for not allowing a goal and playing tough defense in a game with so much pressure,” Fajardo said. “We worked very hard. We run a lot.”
“The center midfielders did fantastic,” Chavez said. “They ran the entire game. They ran their hearts out. Hats off to them. As a whole we played hard; we played aggressive. We were winning balls in the air. And we were moving the ball fantastically.”
Even though his team is known for its defense Stone thought his team’s style in combination with the size of the University of Iowa field was a detriment.
“We play a very adventuresome, attacking, end-to-end 3-4-3, and we live and die by it,” Stone said. “The one error in the back can kind of cost you. It’s hard to play on this size of field the way that we play because we get exposed by sending so many numbers forward. But we created some chances and the ball just didn’t bounce our way in front of the goal.”
City’s midseason three-game losing streak is now a mere footnote.
“We definitely have a new-found confidence,” Chavez said.
“Six years in a row,” Fajardo said. “I cannot believe it. We are very proud.”