OMAHA – The state title, and a little revenge, belongs to South Sioux City.
South Sioux City plays Elkhorn South in Nebraska Boys State Soccer Championship in Omaha, Neb. on Tuesday, May 15, 2018.
As loud cheers of “South Sioux, South Sioux” rang down from the stands that held a massive Cardinals following, fifth-ranked SSC avenged a loss to top-ranked Elkhorn South in last year’s state title game to claim the Class B Nebraska Boys State Soccer Championship 2-0 at Morrison Stadium on Tuesday.
“It feels great and the way we started some people counted us out that we weren’t going to make districts, that we weren’t going to get here,” said South Sioux Coach Lupe Gonzalez, who is in his second season leading the team. “We are here and look at the outcome.
“Just like we started out the season (with) unfinished business, we took care of business.”
Martin Zamora Pagua gave the Cardinals the lead with just 4:19 to go in the first half as he took a long pass and raced past an Elkhorn South defender easily beating goalkeeper Parker Lundgren to give the Cardinals a lead they would never relinquish.
“My mind was blank to be honest … it is just an amazing feeling, it is always going to stick with me,” said Zamora Pagua of the winning tally. “(Monday) we had watched film and studied our opponent very well and we saw how they were a little weaker on the sides. We took advantage of that and worked hard on the sides, and we have great players on the sides like my boy Benjamin Plascencia. Everybody works hard and we got the ‘W.’”
Michael Virgen, who scored the lone goal in SSC's quarterfinal win over Schuyler on Friday, would add the second goal 19 minutes into the second half when he converted a free kick from 20 yards out that Lundgren did not make an attempt on.
South Sioux showed its scoring balance as Zamora Pagua finished the season with nine goals to lead the team while Virgen had six.
The Cardinals (17-5), who also won the Class B title in 2013, have played in the championship game four times since 2012 and five times overall.
South Sioux began the year 1-3 and closed the season winning 16 of their final 18 games to secure the title.
“It was our will to want it,” Gonzalez said. “I felt we had more intensity, quicker off the ball, we marked well, we really didn’t give them a chance to think.”
Elkhorn South (14-7) reached the championship game for the third straight year beating Crete 2-0 in overtime in the opening round and downing Omaha Skutt 1-0 in the semifinals. Last year the Storm rallied to defeat South Sioux 3-2 in overtime to claim the title.
Storm senior Michael Potach was greeted by boos every time he touched the ball during the game after proclaiming himself the best player in the state after scoring in his team’s semifinal victory.
“I kept a promise to the seniors last year when I saw them cry and it broke my heart,” Leonardo Davalos said. “They said ‘If you get (Elkhorn South) in the final you guys have to finish.’
“It happened and when we found out that we were going to face them we knew we were going to go out there and finish it. I told these guys that we run every 40 minutes, we keep the intensity up and they are going to be on us. The motivation run, run, run and keep a clean sheet.”
SSC sophomore goalkeeper Adan Curiel completed his perfect state tournament without giving up a goal as South Sioux outshot the Storm 7-6 in the game. Once again, the Cardinals’ defense proved to be physical and suffocating.
“We make each other strong that is what a team is,” Davalos said. “I would rather have a complete team over the best player in the state on my team. The defense, we were four guys and we became brothers and had each other’s back.”
Both teams had four shots in the first half, but it was the Cardinals with the best scoring opportunities as Virgen nearly put SSC up on its first shot. He rocketed a ball that the keeper was able to get a hand on and direct high.
Players mobbed each other after the final seconds ticked away and the South Sioux fans roared their approval of a season-long goal accomplished Gonzalez, who was an assistant on the last championship team said he had familiar feelings.
“Same thing, same thing, I am 1-1 in two years,” he said. “It is great.”