• Nicolas Esqueda takes a shot for his second goal in a two-minute span in LCMS’s 2-1 victory over Pickens County at the UNG Soccer Complex in the Mountain League quarterfinals.

Middle school soccer is league runner-up

The LCMS boys soccer team fell just short of its goal to win the 2019 Mountain League championship when the Indians fell to Union County in the final minutes of the league championship match at Pickens County Middle School on Thursday, March 28.

The loss in the championship match earned the Indians Mountain League runner-up honors and concluded a highly successful season for the club.

“I am extremely proud of the team’s accomplishments this year,” said LCMS head boys soccer coach Radford Windham. “Although we lost a tough one in the last minute of the championship game, the team experienced great success this season. I am extremely honored to coach such an outstanding group of young men.”

The Indians began their journey to the championship match by taking on the Pickens County Dragons at the UNG Soccer Complex on Tuesday, March 26. Originally slated to take place at the LCMS stadium on Monday, March 25, the match was rescheduled and the location changed after rainy weather cancelled the original match.

The atmosphere at the UNG Soccer Complex was electric as Lumpkin and Pickens fans watched the two clubs take to the pitch for the quarterfinal match.

For the first 17 minutes of the match, both teams tried their best to break through the other’s defense and get on the scoreboard to no avail. However, with 7:12 remaining in the first half, the Dragons finally broke through the deadlock to score the match’s first goal. The goal came courtesy of a mistake by LCMS goalkeeper Jacob Covert. Awarded a goal kick, Covert passed the ball up the middle of the field to his center defensive back. With press coming from the Dragons, the center back passed the ball back to Covert. Covert tried to boot the ball out of danger, but the ball ricochetted off a charging Pickens player and bounced past Covert and into the net to put the Dragons up 1-0.

The Indians turned up their offensive pressure after the Pickens goal and delivered a relentless assault on the Dragons’ defense for the remaining seven minutes of the half. The tenacious pressure by the Indians allowed Lumpkin to score the equalizer four minutes after the Dragons took the lead.

Indian standout Nicholas Esqueda made a run on the right side of the pitch and curved his way into the right side of the box before ripping a monster shot from right to left that skirted past the Dragons’ keeper and just inside the left post. The goal evened the scored at 1-1 with 3:18 left in the first half.

Esqueda wasn’t done, however, and quickly gave the Indians a 2-1 lead when he scored his second goal of the match less than two minutes later. Esqueda’s second goal came when he ran on to a long ball played from the midfield on the left side of the box. The crafty Esqueda made a move, created space and launched a shot from left to right that went into the back of the net and gave Lumpkin a 2-1 advantage before halftime.

Esqueda’s goal in the last couple minutes of the first half would prove to be the deciding score of the match, as neither team was able to get much going in the second half of play. In the end, the Indians emerged victorious by a final score of 2-1 to advance to the Mountain League semifinals.

The Indians matched up against the Clear Creek Bobcats when they traveled to Pickens County Middle School for the Mountain League semifinal match on Wednesday, March 27.

The Indians scored three goals and saw its defense shut the Bobcats’ offense down on their way to a 3-0 victory against Clear Creek. Zachary Evans got the scoring started for the Indians with a header in the first half of action which put Lumpkin up 1-0. The Indians’ lead doubled to 2-0 when Payte Rucker’s intense pressure forced the Bobcats to accidentally score an own goal. The final goal for Lumpkin came when Esqueda rocketed in a penalty kick late in the match.

Covert recorded a clean sheet, thanks in part to the solid play of the Indians’ defense in front of him, as Lumpkin refused to allow the Bobcats to find the back of the net.

The 3-0 win advanced the Indians to the Mountain League championship match versus the Union County Panthers at Pickens County Middle School on Thursday, March 28.

The two teams went toe-to-toe in the championship match. The Indians successfully controlled the possession in the first half of play, recording 60 percent of the possession in the half. Despite the ability to control the ball, the Indians found themselves tied with the Panthers 1-1 late in the second half. With just minutes remaining on the clock, Union County was able to take the lead 2-1 with a late match goal.

The late goal would prove to be the deciding factor of the match and the Indians fell to the Panthers by a final score of 2-1.

“Despite the great efforts from all our players, I could tell the team was starting to wear out because of having played three intense playoff matches in a row,” Windham said. “Looking back at the game, there were a few moments and plays that we’d like to have back. Nevertheless, the positives of the season definitely outweigh the negatives.”

Windham credited the leadership of the eighth graders; Covert, Holland Harris, Ethan Wilbanks, TJ Payne, Henry Luesing, Collin Edwardson, Evans, Cooper Greilich, Cameron Rarigh, Grant Jones and Logan Sharp; for helping to keep the team together as a unit during the 2019 season.

“I am excited about what the future holds for our strong core of eighth graders,” Windham said. “They each have left big shoes to fill.”

Windham also credited his coaching staff for their hard work during the 2019 season.

“Compliments go out to the coaches Joe Covert and Matt Sharman who are fully committed in helping teach the boys how to become responsible young men and always making their passion for the game of soccer so magnetic,” Windham said. 

Windham and his coaching staff are already looking to next season with starters Marcus Remillard, Rucker, Stephen Sherrill, Esqueda, Alex Narvaez and Will Staples all returning for the 2020 season.

“The coaching staff is already planning and gearing up for next season,” Windham said. “We expect to be back in the finals next year and expect to bring home a trophy.”

The LCMS boys soccer team finished the 2019 season with an 8-3 overall record and were the Mountain League championship tournament runner-up.

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