BEREA — Last season, the Madison Southern boys soccer team broke a long drought.
Southern claim its first district championship in 13 years after topping rival Madison Central in a shootout.
This year, the Eagles snapped another streak.
For the first time in 16 years, Southern won back-to-back district championships after outlasting Central 3-2 on Thursday in Berea.
“It’s incredible,” Southern coach Andrew Lunsford said of retaining the district title for a second year. “Last year, our goal was to win districts. This year, our goal was just to get better as a team. I’m so proud of them. They fought hard.”
Indeed, the Indians did not make it easy on their cross-county foes.
After Southern took an early 2-0 lead, Central stepped on the gas and clawed their way back to tie it up 2-2 at halftime.
“Everyone was down,” Southern senior Francisco Aguilar recalled the spirit of the team at halftime. “No one wanted to talk. We thought we had lost the game.”
Mid-way through the first half, the Eagles shocked their opponents after taking an early lead.
Samuel Lee flicked a header into the net over Central keeper Daniel Jordan and the Eagles exploded.
“It was part of the gameplan (to try and score early). Then the momentum struck and we just ran with it,” Lee explained.
Minutes later, freshman Garrett Wickersham snuck another goal past Central’s keeper to give the Eagles a comfortable 2-0 lead over the Indians.
Aguilar had taken a shot at the goal, which Jordan deflected, but Wickersham was able to get his foot on the rebound and launched into the back of the net.
“We thought we had won already,” Aguilar admitted. “We thought we had it in the bag.”
Lunsford said he reminded his team that the Indians were sure to find a way back in the game.
“We knew that no lead would be safe enough from a good team like them… It’s postseason and the emotions were high," the coach said. "We took our foot off the gas, though, and they made us pay for it.”
Sure enough, with 11 minutes remaining in the half, Central struck back.
Chase Dale connected on a header to cut into the Eagles lead and the momentum started to shift as the Indians clawed their way back.
“He normally plays a defensive position and I was glad he got that goal. He showed a lot of effort in that play,” Central coach Ron Horn said of Dale.
With both teams battling, Central’s Jon Gordon pushed his way through Eagle’s defenders and found the back of the net to tie the game up with less than a minute left in the first half.
Horn said his team showed a lot of grit on the field on Thursday.
“Coming in tonight after playing really hard last night, I think we did well. I was proud of how they were able to fight back from being down 2-0,” Horn said.
In the second half, the battle raged on as things started to get a little chippy.
A red card was issued to Central’s bench and Southern picked up two yellow cards mid-way through the second half.
As the game became more physical, Southern was awarded a penalty kick with 15 minutes remaining.
“I was so nervous,” Aguilar recalled his preparation for Southern’s penalty kick. “I’m the main one who is supposed to take the penalty kicks, but I was really nervous. The fans were yelling at me.”
It didn’t help that Aguilar was certain that Jordan would remember the spot where the senior had taken his shot last year during the district final.
“I’m pretty sure he remembered,” Aguilar said with a smile. “It’s one of my spots. Luckily, I have a lot of spots. I thought I was going to miss it.”
“I was so happy,” Aguilar said. “I knew we had it then. We just had to hold them off.”
The Indians tried to strike back once again, but couldn’t find the back of the net for the remainder of the half.
Both teams will compete in the 11th Region Tournament next week.