In a terrific exhibition of soccer skills, end-to-end runs and sportsmanship, the Wood River High School and Jerome High School boys’ soccer teams thrilled the boisterous crowd at Middleton High School’s impressive soccer complex Saturday night in the State 4A championship game.
Jerome’s boys (17-4-0) captured their first-ever State 4A tournament championship 3-1 over Wood River (12-4-4) under the lights Saturday to end a full day of four Idaho High School Activities Association title games on the Middleton pitch.
In a fast-paced, cleanly-played and extremely competitive battle between Great Basin Conference league rivals, Jerome junior Yovani Martinez was the difference with two first-half goals and an assist on senior Alberto Vidaca’s goal in the 46th minute. Senior Zac Miczulski scored for Wood River.
Coach Luis Monjaras’ Wolverines, shooting for the school’s first state boys’ soccer title in 10 years and fourth overall, were nevertheless proud to post the Hailey school’s best-ever state tournament finish at the 4A level of competition.
Monjaras said about the thrilling title game, “Jerome was better than us that night. Our boys were playing great for this tournament but Jerome was also playing better than they had before the tournament.
“Jerome won all the second balls that we needed to continue our attack. Once they got the ball their speed was just too fast to adjust to. Our boys did a great job of containing and keeping composure but when Jerome had those three opportunities they took advantage and scored. Just like when we scored—they gave us a wide open shot and we scored.
“Both teams played with heart and dedication. From the get-go you could see the mutual respect in the field. It was a very clean tough match between both sides. Our goal was to score first and gain more momentum and let the confidence grow more than they had already. Since Jerome scored first they ended gaining what we planned for.”
Statistically, Jerome out-shot Wood River 13-12 overall but 8-3 in the pivotal first half. Corner kicks were even at 5-5 and direct kicks favored Wood River 11-9. It was pretty even, heightening the drama as the 80 minutes wore away.
Jerome’s defense featuring All-State junior Freddy Gonzalez, sophomore Joel Castaneda and All-State junior Jose Vidaca was very solid in front of junior goalkeeper Edgar Juarez (7 saves). Juarez was tough early—robbing Eron Bates on a header after an Andrew Graves corner kick, and fisting a Jose Ortiz one-timer over the net at 25 minutes.
It was still scoreless when Jerome found the net on its seventh shot of the first half, at 32 minutes. Senior midfielder Carlos Cervantes dished the ball ahead to Yovani Martinez, who slipped behind the defense and rifled home a left-footer.
Martinez’s kick for a 1-0 lead was impressive, but his best was yet to come. With 90 seconds left in the half, the All-State midfielder took a free kick just inside midfield on the 62-by-106-foot pitch, much shorter than Wood River’s 75-by-120.
He absolutely scorched a line drive that somehow got through everybody and stopped only when it found net, 2-0.
Early the second half, a counterattack pass from Yovani Martinez sailed left-to-right across the field to Alberto Vidaca, who chased it down and ripped a high shot for a 3-0 lead. It was demoralizing for a Wolverine team that had just been applying tons of pressure with two straight corner kicks.
Wood River’s leading scorer Miczulski volleyed home his 11th goal from just outside the box at 49 minutes but that’s all the offense the Wolverines could manage. In its fourth meeting of the season with Jerome, Wood River was better on set plays—but Jerome was superior creating in the open field.
Monjaras said, “Overall our boys finished ahead of their own expectations and were able to accomplish the expectations set on them from their previous teammates. Some will finish a soccer career with a great resume. Others will continue to add to it.
“I am very, very proud of them.”
Wood River advanced to the final with a 3-0 shutout over Mountain Home (14-7-2) Friday. Senior Jose Ortiz scored two goals and senior Eron Bates sent a marvelous header into the net on a set play off an Andrew Graves corner kick.
Miczulski and senior Stephen Pfeiffer had assists on the Ortiz goals for a 2-0 halftime lead.
The result meant that Wood River would be playing for a State 4A championship for the first time. Monjaras said after the Mountain Home win, “The boys are on Cloud 9. They are relaxed and enjoying every minute of it.”
Bates said, “It means a lot to the 10 seniors who have been so dedicated through the year—and many of us have been playing together since we were seven years old. We started the season a little shaky with injuries, but we came together at the right time and bonded as a team.”
Wood River, which won the State 4A consolation title under coach Monjaras (59-24-14 in 5 years) in 2010 at Lake City and the third-place state trophy last year at Idaho Falls, earned the school’s highest-ever placing at the 4A tournament with the second-place trophy.
State champions three times in 1998-99 and 2003, Wolverine teams also placed second at state in 1987 and for three straight years from 2000-02. This year was Wood River’s 22nd trip to the state tournament in the program’s 28 seasons.
Hailey seniors Bates, Andrew Graves, Miczulski and Miguel Velasco were chosen to participate in the 4th District North-South All-Star Senior soccer game Tuesday, Oct. 29 at Wendell High School. The Wood River team banquet is Friday, Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. in the high school commons area.
In addition, Bates (defense) and Ortiz (striker) were selected for the 11-player All-State 4A team at last weekend’s tournament. State “Player of the Year” was Emmett senior midfielder Kevin Solis, and the State “Coach of the Year” was 10th-year Jerome coach Robert Garcia.
· Final team statistics: Wood River 12-4-4 (4-1-2 home, 8-3-2 away, 5-2-3 league for #4 seed, 2th place in GBC tournament and 2nd place in State 4A tournament) with 8 shutouts in 20 games. Goals scored: 53 (2.7 per game). Goals against: 29 (1.5). Individual scoring: Zac Miczulski 11 (4 game winners), Jose Ortiz 10 (3 game winners), Stephen Pfeiffer 6, Miguel Velasco Martinez 4, Eron Bates 3, Yuri McClure 3, Arthur Brugger 3, Andrew Graves 3, Sage Kelly 2, Dylan Black 2, Danny Graves 2, Jon Scott 1, Chandler Gifford 1, Drew Morse 1, Quinn Magner 1.