By Douglas Miles
Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – At times throughout the season Brad Stiles has marveled at the youth on his roster.
With the longtime West High coach on the cusp of another state championship, the Trojans’ youngsters sustained a significant setback.
“It is definitely a tough lesson,” Stiles said after third-seeded West lost the Class 4A state championship match, 3-2 in double overtime, to No. 4 Johnston Saturday night at Cownie Soccer Park in Des Moines. “I told them they earned the right to let it out here, but I think this is the type of group that will find some motivation going forward to put the program right back where we need to be.”
West High (17-3) was 97 seconds away from a state-best 10th boys’ soccer state title in program history when Johnston junior Carlos Martinez scored his second goal in the final 20-plus minutes that erased a 2-0 Dragons’ deficit and sent the two teams to overtime tied at 2-2.
“Sometimes there is luck involved, sometimes you just get a wrong bounce,” West High senior Corentin Charles said. “Something happens, you know the ball slips. That happens in soccer. That is why it is a good sport.”
Neither team scored in the first overtime period.
Less than three minutes into the second extra frame, Johnston freshman Cael Leach sent the Dragons’ student body pouring onto the field with a header off a corner kick.
“I wouldn’t say it slipped away,” West senior Michael Nelson said. “I just think we made a couple few mistakes. We have a young team. Sometimes that is something young teams do.”
Nelson — who will play Division-III soccer at St. Olaf College in Minnesota — was fantastic in the second half for the Trojans.
After a scoreless first half, Nelson got West High on the board with a goal just 18 seconds into the second.
“I saw as a team we could do it,” Nelson said. “We did it, we just didn’t keep it up all the way.”
Nelson added a second goal in the 54th minute that gave the Trojans a semi-comfortable 2-0 advantage, but Johnston reacted to its desperate situation with renewed intensity.
“I knew that was going to come,” Nelson said. “The entire team might not have known, but I tried to tell them. Sometimes even when you are prepared, you still get beat.”
The boys’ soccer state championship is the first for Johnston (18-3).
Charles and Nelson were named to the all-tournament team alongside fellow senior Ruichar Medina.
The trio represented half of the six total seniors on the West High roster.
Stiles stopped short of saying his young squad was ahead of schedule, but acknowledged that it was a group with a host of reasons to be proud.
“They were there when they needed to be,” Stiles said. “I get it, maybe I should give them a little more credit. Sometimes I am a little bit too hard at the end of the season on them. But no, I liked what I saw today.”