By MICHAEL CHILDERS, CJ Correspondent
Due to the recent success of the Somerset Christian soccer program, the school has had to make some extra room for all the state championship trophies that they have earned over the past few seasons.
The school will have to make a little bit more room for another trophy this week, as the Cougars downed the Academy for Individual Excellence (AIE) by a score of 8-0 in the KCAA State Soccer Championship game on Saturday afternoon at the Somerset Christian School soccer complex.
With the eight-goal victory over AIE, Ben Stein’s Cougars came away with their third state title in a row and their fourth title in the past five years. Since becoming the head coach at Somerset Christian, it is Stein’s sixth state championship.
“We’re looking forward to an invitational tournament down in Tennessee next week,” began Stein. “I can’t say enough about these guys. This is probably the best team that I’ve ever coached – I’ve got 14 players that I could start. I’m really proud of these guys.”
The Cougars of Somerset Christian managed to only pick up one goal in the opening 40 minutes of soccer action. Senior Colby Alexander scored the Cougars’ lone goal of the first half in the 16th minute of the match, allowing them to take a 1-0 lead into the locker room at the intermission.
“1-0 is never a good enough lead in high school soccer,” stated the SCS coach. “We talked about the fact that if they played up on us, then we’ve got to get the ball to Jon Pope. We knew that if we didn’t come out and attack these guys, they would make things difficult for us.”
Things would be much different in the second half of play, as the Cougars simply dominated AIE. The pace would pick up quickly, as Somerset Christian found the nets on seven occasions in the second half, allowing them to win by an 8-0 margin.
In the opening minutes of the second half, the Cougars scored a pair of goals in less than 30 seconds’ time to grab a 3-0 lead over AIE. Following Jon Pope’s goal in the 43rd minute, Caleb Adams added a score in the 44th minute to widen the gap to three goal.
“Those two goals in the first two and a half minutes of the second half made everybody relax – that’s what we were looking for,” Stein said. “We wanted get some of the goals in so we could relax.”
Somerset Christian would get another pair of goals near the 50-minute mark. Adams, less than six minutes after scoring, tallied his second goal on a free kick to put the Cougars ahead by four goals. Pope would quickly find the nets again, allowing Somerset Christian to grab a 5-0 advantage.
With just under 20 minutes remaining in the championship match, Hunter Halloran found the nets to give the Cougars a six-goal lead over AIE. A little over five minutes later, Jacob Ricks snuck past the AIE defense for his first goal of the afternoon to make the score, 7-0.
Pope, with 9:35 left on the clock, found the nets for the third time of the afternoon, allowing him to earn a hat trick. The senior’s hat trick goal put the Cougars ahead by a score of 8-0, which would be the final.
With the victory, Somerset Christian upped their record to 21-3 on the year. The Cougars will return to action next week, when they will travel to Tennessee for an invitational tournament.
Following the game, Pope was named to the All-State team and was tabbed as the MVP of the tournament. The senior was also chosen as Mr. Soccer, which is awarded to the top soccer player in the state.
Adams was named to both the All-State and All-Tournament teams, while Luke Huffman and John Garland were members of the All-Tournament team.
Follow Michael Childers on Twitter: @GetChili22