Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – Matt Harding wasn’t taking any credit for his coaching leading Liberty High to the first state tournament win in program history.
Instead the first-year Liberty High coach heaped praise on his players following the Lightning’s 4-2 Class 3A quarterfinal win over top-ranked Dallas Center-Grimes on Tuesday at Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines.
Harding sung the praises of the Saul brothers, Cooper, Forrest and Hayden, sophomore Mason Pentecost and anyone else he was asked about.
The only element of Tuesday’s win that Harding would acknowledge he played a role in was the motivation which he says came from his choice for the viewing option on the hour plus bus ride.
“I credit the bus movie we watched, Liverpool’s Champions League win from 2005 with the big comeback from 3-0 down on the way out,” Harding said. “That was my only contribution today just kind of instilling that as there is time on the clock we have to keep doing what works for us and that’s what we did so that was the most pleasing part for me as a coach.”
Regardless of the where the motivation came from the Lightning showed plenty of it on Tuesday.
Ninth-ranked Liberty High twice rallied from a one-goal deficit while making its state tournament debut a memorable win with an upset of the Mustangs.
“It was really huge for the boys to come out here, our first time at state and get a win, wow,” Harding said. “We are over the moon with that.”
Hayden Saul scored twice and Cooper Saul added a pivotal goal in the second half as Liberty High advanced to take on third-ranked Marion (19-0) in the 3A semifinals on Thursday at 4:10 p.m.
Marion defeated Denison-Schleswig 3-1 in a quarterfinal on Tuesday.
“We knew they were one of the best teams in 3A but we knew our seeding wasn’t actually what we were,” Cooper Saul said. “We knew we were better than our seeding and we had a good chance of beating them.”
The win was the fifth straight and eighth in the last nine matches for Liberty High which has now scored three or more goals in eight consecutive matches.
“Some of the goals were off the keeper or kind of lucky goals but we deserved them,” Hayden Saul said. “We were pressing up and being aggressive.”
Dallas Center-Grimes led twice on Tuesday but Hayden Saul didn’t let either lead last long.
The Mustangs took an early lead on a Ben Jackson goal in the 7th minute but Hayden Saul answered with a goal in the 26th minute to even the match 1-1.
Jackson snapped the 1-1 tie with his second goal of the match just more than four minutes into the second half but again Hayden Saul answered.
He scored his second goal of the match and team-high 21st of the season less than three minutes later to even the score at 2-2.
“We knew we could score a good amount of goals against them we just had to keep (Jackson) out of the goal,” Hayden Saul said. “He scored a couple of times but other than that it was clamps on the back.”
The final 30 minutes was all Liberty High.
Cooper Saul gave Liberty High its first lead when he scored on a deflected shot with 22:18 remaining.
“I had a lot of space so I was calling for it and he just kind of played it up and I just one tapped it,” Saul said. “It ricocheted off the player and went into the back of the net.”
Sophomore Mason Pentecost capped the scoring with a goal in the 77th minute.
“When we got down ee were ready to come out stronger,” Cooper Saul said. “When we got scored on we didn’t put our heads down we came back with more energy and we knew how to beat them.”