ROUND ROCK, TEXAS (October 18, 2018) — Round Rock Concordia head coach Jared Jolly called it “a perfect shot.”
The only thing imperfect about it for the Cardinals was that it came off of the foot of Regents Academy forward James Vermillion in the 93rd minute to give the 44-member Nacogdoches school its first Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) Fall Soccer state championship in school history.
The 2-1 victory came after the two schools traded a pair of goals within 93 seconds of one another midway through the first half of play.
“We played a quality opponent – and lost to a clinical finish,” said Jolly. “If you’re going to lose a game you want to lose a game knowing that you gave your all and you lose to a perfect shot.”
Throughout the first 90 minutes of play, Round Rock Concordia succeeded in keeping the ball away from Vermillion’s feet.
“He’s a quality player,” Jolly said. “We scouted him yesterday and we knew that they try go through him on their attacks.”
And from the match’s onset, Concordia junior defender Samuel Murdy drew the assignment of shadowing Vermillion – just like he had in the semifinal against Kingsville Presbyterian Pan American’s Omar Ortiz.
“It did slow us down,” said Nacogdoches Regents Academy head coach Rick Bertke. “I think it was a good decision on their part, but ultimately they didn’t stop him.
“We’re used to scoring goals, but you hope in a championship game that it is close and it is competitive — and it was.”
And Vermilion was hoping to get in on the action as he had a day ago against Yavneh Academy of Dallas.
“Last game they gave me a lot of space,” he said. “I was expecting a couple of early goals, but that’s not what happened for me. They were playing a lot more in the back.”
And it forced the Eagles to spread the shots on goal around.
For much of the first 25-plus minutes of play, both teams traded series of attacks, thwarted by great defensive efforts on both ends of the field.
Regents Academy’s Knox Fairley drew most of the Concordia attention in the middle of the field while seniors Braeden Richter and Jacob Hutton helped Murdy throttle the Eagle offense.
In the 27th minute, Fairley lined up on the left corner of the penalty box for a penalty kick and shot the ball over the Cardinal defenders toward the right-center part of the goal, but freshman keeper Jake Sellers, after making an initial stop, fumbled the ball across the goal line to give Regents a 1-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later, Concordia’s James Jolly got in between Fairley and Clayton Terrell and left-footed a kick to freshman goalie Will Furniss‘ left — and he couldn’t stop it as the Cardinals evened the score at 1-all.
For much of the second half, Regents had multiple shots – especially from the middle and the right side of the pitch — taken by freshman midfielder Owen Fairley and forward Drew Middlebrook.
“We had some opportunities,” said Bertke. “We had a number of balls go fairly wide and any of those balls a few inches here or there could have made a difference.
“We did try to play more crosses in then we did in the game against Yavneh.”
For Jolly’s Cardinals, he said they were unable to make the final pass much of the second half as sophomore forward Ryan Pinto only got two good shots on goal.
“We got there a lot, (but) it just wasn’t the right pass,” he said. “We tried to get them to cut back to the penalty mark, but we just couldn’t just execute that final pass.”
Bertke credits that to Regents’ ability for his team to “stay at home”.
“They had very good speedy forwards,” he said. “Or defense is all juniors plus one sophomore and we had enough speed to counteract that.
“We knew having seen them before that they were going to be a little bit more counterattack playing in the open field.”
In the first overtime, Pinto got two shots off in the 83rd and 88th minutes from the left wing — one that was wide left and the latter a ball which Furniss directly saved.
In between, Regents had one direct shot on Sellers – which he saved – by freshman Owen Fairley, who was setup by a nice pass from fellow midfielder Anabelle Terrell.
The second period, though, the Eagles remained calm — until the time came for Middlebrook to find Vermillion in the center in front of the goalie.
“It just all works out from repetition,” he said. “The last one Drew got on the outside, he cut it back in. It was his first time to cut it in. Our assistant coach told him to do that.
“I was looking for a ball down and a foul because it was in the penalty box, but I received the ball, cut it back and just took a shot and it just happened to go in.”
Jolly once again was deferential to the quality of Vermillion’s play.
“We even had the right defense,” he said. “Our defenders didn’t take the right angle. Our strategy worked perfectly.
“He made a great shot. He had one shot and finished one shot. That’s a quality player.”
Both coaches were understandably proud of their team’s effort – regardless of the outcome.
“It is fun. It is exciting,” said Bertke. “We’ve got 39 students in high school. Seventeen are part of the team. Very, very small school with a very small player pool.
“There’s a lot of dedication (from) kids who have played soccer for a lot of years.”
Jolly echoed Bertke’s sentiments.
“This is the first time Concordia has ever gone this far,” he said. “With a school of 120 kids getting to the state final is an accomplishment.
“It is exciting. It was in our back yard. We had home field advantage, brought a great crowd and the school is super excited.
“I’m just proud of the team, proud of the school and and I think we played hard and we did glorify God and that’s what we’re after.”
To that end, senior forward James Jolly, who scored Concordia’s goals in both state tournament contests, was seen congratulating the Eagle team members after each one of them received their championship medal from Rick Bertke, their coach.
By Jon Walk